Monday, June 29, 2020

San Antonio Mayor and Bexar Judge Ask Governor for Authority to Set Local COVID-19 Rules

Posted By on Mon, Jun 29, 2020 at 4:11 PM

click to enlarge Mayor Ron Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff have asked Gov. Greg Abbott for more leeway to implement local COVID-19 regulations. - SANFORD NOWLIN
  • Sanford Nowlin
  • Mayor Ron Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff have asked Gov. Greg Abbott for more leeway to implement local COVID-19 regulations.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff sent a joint letter to Gov. Greg Abbott Monday asking him for more authority to implement local restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Those could include another stay-at-home order or the ability to limit groceries and big box stores to 50% occupancy, the letter states.

The letter comes as officials in the Houston, Dallas and Austin areas also reach out to Abbott to seek more authority to create local restrictions to combat record infections and hospitalizations, according to the Texas Tribune.

Big Texas cities face mounting pressure to hold down infection rates before their hospital systems are overwhelmed. San Antonio leaders have already reached out to the state asking for help to staff an emergency hospital at Freeman Coliseum to handle potential patient overflow.

"Our region’s hospital capacity issues and economic circumstances require stronger protocols to contain the spread of this disease,” Nirenberg and Wolff wrote. "The ability to tailor a response and recovery that fits the San Antonio region's needs is vital as we look toward a healthier future."

In the letter, the pair requested that Abbott give them the ability to adopt local solutions including a potential return to the Stay Home/Work Safe order they implemented in March. They also requested that the Republican governor clear up language in his own orders about social gatherings and mandate the wearing of masks in public.

During the earliest stage of the pandemic, Abbott took a largely hands-off approach and let municipalities adopt orders to protect their own residents. However, as the governor implemented his plan to reopen the Texas economy, he pushed back at local efforts to impose stricter measures.

In mid-May, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to San Antonio and several other big cities hitting that he would sue if they didn't scale back coronavirus-related regulations.

Wolff called the bluff of state leadership earlier this month, issuing an order requiring local businesses to make both customers and workers don masks before entering. Abbott later said municipalities were free to impose rules for face coverings on businesses but not on individuals.

"With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, it is critical that we strengthen safety protocols to prevent an even greater surge of COVID-19 in our community," Wolff and Nirenberg wrote in their letter.

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