San Antonio’s coronavirus risk level is currently low as the city sees a steady decline in positive COVID-19 cases, according to weekly coronavirus updates.
Rita Espinoza, the city of San Antonio Metropolitan Health chief of Epidemiology, said the declining cases are influenced by a combination of safety measures such as masking, social distancing and vaccinations.
“There’s not just one prevention measure that will work. I think it’s a combination of all of it together,” Espinoza said Nov. 10.
Espinoza said this isn’t the first time San Antonio has had such a low COVID cases rate.
“We have not been this low since I think July of 2021,” Espinoza said.
There have been three surges of low cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Each surge has been a little different,” she said.
A surge in the summer of 2020 was caused by the lockdown, social distancing and quarantine.
“After we saw more people mingle together then we saw an increase of cases,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza said every time positive cases were low, people relaxed their safety practices. As a result, there was an increase in cases.
There was another surge after vaccines became available resulting in people relaxing on safety recommendations.
Espinoza said Metro Health recommends to continue wearing masks, especially in social and indoor gatherings to protect themselves and others.
“Especially with the holidays coming up and during a time when there is a lot of family gatherings… just as a reminder that you know, you’ll take precautions necessary for your individual safety,” Espinoza said.
Metro Health also encourages people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, Espinoza said. Even though it doesn’t guarantee an individual won’t get infected, it lessens the severity of it.
“The vaccine is really geared at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death but that doesn’t mean the virus isn’t out there,” Espinoza said.
The vaccine also protects those who can’t get the vaccine, such as small children or those who are allergic to the vaccine, she said.
As of Nov. 8, Metro health reported 83.4% of those eligible for vaccines (ages 5 and up) have received the first dose and 69.4% are fully vaccinated. Those numbers will continue to change as the vaccine was approved by the FDA for those 5-11 Oct. 29.
Espinoza said Metro Health has not yet analyzed if there is a correlation between decreasing COVID cases and an increase of people getting vaccinated.
Though there has been a decline in the number of deaths over time, the overall mortality rate has remained consistent throughout the pandemic, Espinoza said.
As flu season continues, those looking to get the flu vaccine can receive it in most locations offering the COVID vaccine.
Individuals can get both vaccines at the same time, “one in one arm, one in the other arm,” Espinoza said.
“All of that (safety guidelines) also helps with other respiratory viruses,” Espinoza said. “Last year, we had a very mild flu season and did not see a lot of flu activity.”
There was an increase in COVID cases last year from November to January 2021. Espinoza said the holidays influenced this. As people relaxed on safety guidelines last year, there was an increase in respiratory illnesses too.
If people relax their guidelines as they have in the past, it is possible the city will see an increase in positive COVID-19 cases.
Espinoza said booster shots are recommended for individuals with underlying illnesses that aren’t so severe and for those who are 65 and older.
Vaccination sites are not turning away people looking to get the booster shot, they’re available for anyone.
Additional doses are available for those who are severely immune-compromised, Espinoza said. It is recommended these individuals also receive the booster.
Espinoza said it is safe to get a booster different from your initial round of vaccines.
“If an individual had received Moderna first but when they go, they’re only giving Pfizer, they can get that. If the person wanted to get the Moderna, they would look for a location that provides the Moderna vaccine,” Espinoza said.