City Council voted 10-1 to extend Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s emergency health declaration through the end of the month as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths related to the illness increases in San Antonio.
District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval was the lone vote against the item.
The mayor’s fifth declaration of a public health emergency and the associated “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders were initially scheduled through today. The council’s vote extends the declaration and its restrictions until 11:59 p.m. April 30.
The new timeframe is in line with Texas Gov. Greg Abbot’s latest executive order. The statewide order direct Texas residents to shelter at home with the exception of crucial errands, exercise and job duties. Restaurants will stay open for delivery and curbside orders, and grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses will remain open.
The governor’s order does not allow local governments to restrict any “essential services” allowed in his order or permit gatherings that his prohibits.
The city’s declaration, which Nirenberg adjusted on Apr. 3, also includes restrictions on working at multiple nursing homes and states the city will pull the Certificate of Occupancy for businesses that repeatedly violate the mayor’s declaration.
Sandoval later explained her reasoning for voting against extending the declaration to reporters, saying she supported the spirit of the order but that she believed the city should also be doing other things that wouldn’t necessarily fit into an order.
“So you’ve got the order, and it’s really just one piece in the whole response, right? Keeping people away is one piece of that. In addition is how you do the testing, how you isolate, how you plan for the future. So I think there’s a few more things that we should explore doing, and that’s why I voted no," Sandoval said.
Among her ideas were things like expanding accommodations for COVID-19 patients to include people who were possibly infected, having a “coordinated communication plan" for the city, convening members of local medical and public health schools for their expertise, and having council members involved in some health policy decisions.
A spokeswoman for the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District said said they believe they have such a communications plan and local experts are being tapped.
While the spokeswoman said the city was beginning to work on providing accommodations for patients who need them, it was not immediately clear exactly who would be eligible to use it.
On Thursday, Deputy City Manager María Villagómez gave Nirenberg and City Council a briefing on the pandemic’s effects on San Antonio’s revenue.
Villagómez called the impact “catastrophic," saying revenue is projected to be $55 million less than what was budgeted.
The city’s budget for this fiscal year, which lasts through September, totals about $2 billion.
She said the loss in revenue from hotel occupancy tax is $40.1 million, Alamodome is $5.9 million and convention center is $8.8 million.
The variance in the San Antonio International Airport’s revenue is $43.2 million.
City Council also unanimously voted Thursday to move the Pre-K 4 SA sales tax election from May 2 to Nov. 3.
The election will decide if the city will move forward with using one-eighth cent of sales tax to fund eight more years of the program. While the council originally approved putting the issue onto the May ballot, the pandemic caused the Pre-K 4 SA Board of Directors to request the election be moved.
Like other school systems in San Antonio, Pre-K 4 SA curriculum moved online in late March due to the pandemic. Staff members are still working and family check-in calls are still available.
The program serves about 2,000 students every school year in its four education centers.
District 1 Councilman Robert Trevino, District 2 Councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan, District 4 Councilwoman Dr. Adriana Rocha Garcia and District 6 Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda attended the meeting via video-conferencing.
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.
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