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SAQ: What does San Antonio’s emergency declaration do?

Basic questions answered about the COVID-19 emergency

How coronavirus pandemic is affecting San Antonio restaurants
How coronavirus pandemic is affecting San Antonio restaurants (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – On Monday, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced a new 7-day emergency declaration intended to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

With four travel-related cases reported in San Antonio, Nirenberg is hoping the emergency declaration can blunt community spread. Nirenberg has the authority to extend or modify the restrictions.

Here’s what we know about the 4 confirmed COVID-19 cases in San Antonio

The declaration bars events and gatherings larger than 50 people, but there are several exceptions to the rule.

Here’s what the emergency declaration does — and doesn’t — do.

What is restricted by the declaration?

The declaration states that “all indoor public and private gathering and outdoor gatherings within an enclosed space” is prohibited. Groups larger than 50 are considered “mass gatherings,” by order of this declaration.

Events like concerts, festivals and conferences are barred by the declaration. Cinemas also cannot have more than 50 people in one theater, for example. The city has the authority to shut down any events that violate the order.

What is exempted from the declaration?

Several locations are exempt from the “mass gathering” definition. They include:

  • San Antonio International Airport
  • public or private schools and places of worship (see school closures here, and how churches responded here)
  • museums (as long as visitors are not within arm’s lengths for extended periods of time)
  • bus stops or other mass transit waiting areas
  • office space, hotels and residential buildings
  • grocery stores, shopping malls, outdoor markets, bars, restaurants and other public food service locations. (see what’s closed here)
  • Retail establishments where there may be a large number of people "but it is unusual for them to be within arm’s length for extended periods
  • hospitals, medical facilities and shelters
  • jails and detention centers (The Bexar County Jail is beginning to implement health screenings in efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said Monday.)

What about restaurants?

Though other Texas cities, like Houston and Dallas, made the decision to shut down the dining rooms of restaurants, San Antonio’s declaration does not go that far, yet.

Restaurants, bars and other food service locations are currently exempt from the emergency order.

However, the city has sent guidance and recommendations to these locations on how to operate as safely as possible.

For restaurants and bars, that means spreading tables six feet apart, emphasizing delivery and curbside orders and constantly sanitizing surfaces.

Several restaurants have already closed their dining rooms out of an abundance of caution.

All locations are encouraged to provide hand sanitizing stations and tissues to reduce the spread of germs.

The recommendations to the exempt locations are not enforceable actions, but the city strongly encourages everyone to follow the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

How long is the declaration in effect?

The emergency declaration lasts for one week, expiring on March 23, but it could also get extended.

City and health officials are in constant communication in regards to the situation and “may update restrictions set out in this (declaration) as necessary.”

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