San Antonio – As the San Antonio City Council approved an extension of Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s latest “Stay Home, Work Safe” emergency order, the question loomed of what might happen if things take a turn for the worse.
The latest order closely aligns with Gov. Greg Abbott’s order from Monday that takes further steps to reopen Texas, including opening up bars for the first time, expanding restaurant capacity, and even allowing some professional sports. With the City Council’s unanimous approval, the mayor’s order will now extend through June 4 — a day after the governor’s order.
Though the governor has continued to take the lead on reopening the state, making sure his orders will supersede any contradicting local ones, local leaders are keeping an eye on a set of progress and warning indicators to track the course of the pandemic. Those indicators, such as patient trends, the rate at which the number of cases doubles, and the percentages of positive test results, were recommended by the Health Transition Team as a way to determine if restrictions could be loosened or tightened.
“And in the event it goes in the wrong direction, we’re going to have a very candid conversation with the governor,” Nirenberg told reporters after the Thursday council meeting. “And we hope to remain in alignment. But our job is to make sure we protect our residents here at home.”
Abbott has the discretion, under his current order, to impose restrictions in the counties where there is a spike.
The mayor noted the governor has already delayed some reopening steps in Amarillo and El Paso due to circumstances in those areas. However, Nirenberg said he has had conversations with his counterparts about what might happen if the state does not act when a city feels it needs to.
“Hopefully that is a fork in the road that we don’t have to come to. Hopefully we’re continuing to cooperate, but we’re going to have to watch the data to make sure that we are still going in the right direction," Nirenberg said.
As with all of Nirenberg’s orders since Mar. 23, it goes by the “Stay Home, Work Safe” title. However, as more of the state reopens, some council members say the name may not be right anymore.
“I think that’s creating some confusion out there. We’re opening up restaurants, child care centers, a lot of different businesses in town that can open and are opening. So I think we need to change the title on this document,” said District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry.
District 9 Councilman John Courage recommended the city tell people “remain at home or remain safe." The word “remain,” he said, is a “reminder, not an order.”
City Attorney Andy Segovia said it would be up to Nirenberg to change the title. He noted, though, that Gov. Abbott’s orders continue to say Texans “shall” minimize contact with people from other households when it’s not necessary for obtaining or providing covered services.
Beyond complying with the governor’s orders on which businesses and services may now open, the mayor’s order also supports the protections against evictions and foreclosures included in Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff’s order, warns residents about possibly unreliable antibody tests, and includes testing reporting requirements for laboratories.
Whereas previous orders required a face covering, they are only “strongly encouraged” in the latest order. There is no civil or criminal penalty for not wearing one.
Violations of the mayor’s order are punishable by up to a $1,000 fine per incident.