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Metro Health downgrades COVID-19 threat level to 'low' for first time since early July

It's the lowest threshold on the county's coronavirus risk indicator, and comes as more and more San Antonians are getting immunized.

SAN ANTONIO — For the first time since July 6, the final days before the delta variant caused an end-of-summer surge in COVID-19 cases in San Antonio and across the country, Bexar County's coronavirus threat level has fallen to low—Metro Health's lowest threshold for virus spread. 

The development comes a month after Metro Health moved the threat's needle down from moderate to mild amid falling case totals, declining hospitalization rates and rising vaccination rates. 

"All of our success in the fight against COVID-19 in this latest round can be attributed to folks getting vaccinated," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at Tuesday evening's pandemic response update. 

As of Thursday, Oct. 28, 1.273 million are fully vaccinated, amounting to 76% of the county's vaccine-eligible population. And 1.533 million eligible Bexar County citizens, or 91.7%, have received at least one dose.

Those vaccine efforts have resulted in lower case counts. 155 new coronavirus diagnoses were announced Tuesday, one of the lowest daily totals since mid-July. The situation is also improved for San Antonio-area hospitals, where the number of current COVID-19 patients (200) is at its lowest levels since 192 county residents were being treated on July 10. There were more than 500 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals as recently as a month ago. 

Local leaders and health officials are hopeful about what lies ahead as the Centers for Disease Control bring Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine one step closer to 5-to-11-year-old kids; an advisory panel gave the green light Tuesday afternoon, and the final OK from the agency's director is expected soon. 

Metro Health Director Claude Jacob said the county has already ordered its vaccine shipments for local children, and is only waiting for the go-ahead. He estimated about 330,000 San Antonio-area children fall in the 5-to-11 bracket, amounting to 17% of Bexar County's population. 

"We’re looking at the early part of next week (for distribution to start). Just know that we’re on the runway, and ready for takeoff," he said. "We’ve already ordered the vaccines."

At the same time, Jacob and Nirenberg, along with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, encouraged residents to be vigilant as the holiday season arrives. 

"We thank residents for being patient with us, (but) we’re not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination," Jacob said. "This virus loves company, so we ask folks to pay extra attention over the course of the holidays. Celebrate safely.”

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