SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) -Nine additional coronavirus-related deaths were reported Wednesday in Bexar County, bringing the death toll to 146. Mayor Ron Nirenberg noted that the latest victims ranged in age from the 20s to the 90s.
There were 845 new confirmed cases, bringing the total since the pandemic started to 16, 725. The number of patients hospitalized dropped by 30 to 1, 205. However, the number of people treated in ICU increased to 399, and 232 were using ventilators. That leaves 11 percent of hospital beds available and 48 percent of ventilators.
Dr. Paul Hancock, Chief Medical Officer for Methodist Healthcare, said the number of younger COVID-19 patients is on the rise. He explained that a 28-year-old man recently showed up in the emergency room with a heart attack, which turned out to be related to coronavirus.
“We generally think about COVID causing respiratory illness, and the vast majority of what we see is cough and shortness of breath, but there are a myriad of things that this virus causes,” said Hancock. “When a 28-year-old man is coming in with a heart attack related to the virus, it’s just another reinforcement of what a serious matter it is.”
Hancock told reporters at the COVID-19 briefing Wednesday night that most of the coronavirus patients who are admitted to the hospital require oxygen support.
“These are people who presented to the emergency room with cough, shortness of breath and fever, and they don’t have the ability to maintain their oxygen levels without supplemental oxygen,” said Hancock.
He mentioned some of the treatments being used with some success on COVID-19 patients in Bexar County.
“There are three treatments that have been shown to be effective, to some degree, to help patients either shorten hospitalization or improve the mortality rate,” Hancock said.
One is the anti-viral drug remdesivir, which he says is in short supply. The second treatment is convalescent plasma, which involves taking the plasma from someone who has recovered from COVID-19 and administering that to the patient. Hancock described it as an “old-style” treatment that has been around for many years, which has been effective in treating patients with the virus. He’s encouraging those who have recovered from the novel coronavirus to contact the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center to donate plasma for patients who are seriously ill.
“The third intervention that’s been shown to be valuable is dexamethasone, which is a corticosteroid drug that’s very commonly in use in healthcare. That’s also shown to be effective in improving mortality rates, so when people get to a certain point, we will also use that drug,” Hancock explained.
A recent article in the New York Times quoted doctors who stated that dexamethasone has been shown to be effective in the most serious cases of COVID-19, but it can do more harm than good in mild cases because of its effect on the immune system.
Dr. Martin J. Landray, senior author of a clinical trial in Britain and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University, raised concerns about using steroids in the early stages of COVID-19 or in mild cases because anti-inflammatory drugs can dampen the body’s protective immune response.
“In the early phase of the illness, the immune system is your friend,” Dr. Landry said in the article. “It’s fighting the virus, and dampening it is not a good idea.”
“In the later phase, the immune system is no longer your friend–it’s responsible for the lungs failing, and dampening it down with steroids helps the situation and improves the chance of survival,” Landry stated.
As Hancock said at the local COVID-19 briefing, dexamethasone is used when patients “get to a certain point.”
The pandemic has forced the cancellation of Mala Luna at Nelson Wolff Stadium in October. Earlier this week, the State Fair of Texas scheduled in June was called off. Nirenberg was asked Wednesday if Fiesta San Antonio could be next. He said an announcement is expected by the end of the week on whether the 11-day event, which was postponed from April to November, will be scrapped.