SAN ANTONIO — As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year, exacerbated as of late by the dominant omicron strain, 11,528 new cases were reported across the first three days of 2022, according to Metro Health's coronavirus database. Health authorities have also upgraded the local COVID-19 risk level back to the "severe" threshold.
Each day this year has seen more than 3,700 new cases, including 3,894 on Monday, which is more than any daily case total in 2021. Only once last year did our area record more than 3,000 new diagnoses in a single day.
The development comes after about 70,000 people attended the city's official New Year's Eve celebration downtown on Friday night.
Earlier that day, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff joined University Health leaders in encouraging precautions and safe celebrations, with UH officials going as far as warning the community to avoid crowds and in-person gatherings over the weekend.
Speaking to KENS 5 on Monday evening, Nirenberg said the new numbers aren't rooted in New Year's weekend events. He emphasized instead that people need to maintain their vigilance during the pandemic.
“One of the challenges here in Texas is that the governor, through his orders, has tied the hands of local communities and public health authorities from really dealing with this in a proactive way," he said. "What we have been doing and what we will continue to do is urge the caution and behaviors that we know will fight this wave of the infection."
"Masking up, getting vaccinated and staying home when you’re sick are the tools we need to fight the omicron variant. That’s critically important right now,” he said.
More than 350,000 Bexar County residents have now been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Two more people have died this year from COVID-19 complications, raising the death toll to 4,977.
Meanwhile, the county's positivity rate spiked to 27.3%.
It also has placed more stress on local health care workers. Metro Health's coronavirus-tracking database indicates 506 Bexar County residents are hospitalized with the virus, which is the most since 530 were hospitalized on Oct. 6.
Nirenberg told KENS 5 that a focus this week is preventing omicron from affecting staffing levels at hospitals.
"That’s one of the battles we have currently is to slow this down so that we’re not facing shortages in the hospital due to the loss of nurses and other personnel who have to be out themselves because they’re (testing) positive," he said.