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A new issue is making it harder for doctors to treat COVID-19 patients in San Antonio: Patients who don't come in at all.

Health officials say fear of contracting the virus is keeping sick people away from hospitals until it's too late.

SAN ANTONIO — For the fifth straight night, coronavirus hospitalizations are down in Bexar County hospitals. Despite the positive trend, there is a fear of going to the hospital.

 A medical expert with Methodist Hospital Metropolitan said people are dying at home, or calling 911 when it is too late. 

Chadi Awad, the hospital's chief nursing officer, said some of these patients who are sick are living in fear. 

"We have a seen a lot of fear, and sometimes an increase of fear, in COVID," he said.

As a result, these sick patients are not showing up to receive treatment. 

"They are scared (of) coming to the hospital to seek treatment, (out) of being worried of contracting COVID-19," he said. "We have seen a lot of life lost that could have been preventable in some ways."

A recent case has stuck with Awad and the staff at the hospital. He said a San Antonio man was scared to go to the hospital because he thought he would get the coronavirus, se waited several days to come in. 

But when he showed up, his symptoms had already worsened, and he ended up on a ventilator. The man died two days later. 

"His diagnosis was COVID-19," Awad said. "The very disease he was worried about contracting in the hospital was actually his illness at home."

Awad said there are several stories of patients either dying or ending up with severe permanent damage to their body. He is pleading with the public: Don't wait. 

"If people think about it," he said, "the hospitals are the safest places in our community right now."

He said Methodist hospitals are going above and beyond with safety protocols. He also said if a patient doesn't have the virus, they will be separated from those who do.

"We want you to have more time with your families," he said.

The city and county are tracking the number of people dying at home who didn't get tested for the virus. As of Friday night, they say the number is 28 lives lost.

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