Nirenberg, other Texas mayors sign letter asking Abbott for authority to set rules for face masks

Mayors from Austin, Dallas, Houston and Fort Worth sign letter asking for authority to regulate face masks in their cities

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, SA Mayor Ron Nirenberg image. (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg is part of a group of Texas mayors asking Gov. Greg Abbott for the authority to set rules and regulations on the use of face coverings in each of their cities.

Nirenberg and eight other Texas mayors, including Sylvester Turner from Houston, Steve Adler from Austin and Eric Johnson from Dallas, signed a letter on Tuesday addressed to Abbott that read in part:

“A one-size-fits-all approach is not the best option. We should trust local officials to make informed choices about health policy. And if mayors are given the opportunity to require face coverings, we believe our cities will be ready to help reduce the spread of this disease.”

Texas is in the midst of a spike in COVID-19 cases across the state. The letter thanked Abbott for his leadership and for helping the economy recover, but feared an influx of new cases could overwhelm the state’s hospital system.

“With the increase in testing, we are naturally seeing more people being diagnosed with COVID-19, and some areas are seeing confirmed cases increasing more rapidly than testing,” the letter reads. “That’s why we are writing to you today about one of the best ways to keep businesses open and people safe from COVID-19: the wearing of facemasks.”

A timeline on the ever-changing guidelines on face masks during COVID-19 pandemic

During a press conference Tuesday, Abbott discussed the importance of wearing a face covering in public, but once again pushed back on allowing counties to enforce a mandate on face masks.

“I make clear on a daily basis around the entire state of Texas that wearing a mask is very important and local officials send that same message,” Abbott said. “So all of us have the collective responsibility to educate the public that wearing a mask is the right thing to do. Putting people in jail however, is the wrong approach for this thing.”

RELATED: ’No reason to be alarmed’: Texas governor unfazed by rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Abbott said even though the state has seen a significant rise in cases and hospitalizations, Texas is still faring well in the fight against the virus.

Abbott attributed recent high numbers to “one-offs” in smaller counties, some of which reported numbers in congregate settings like jails and prisons. Texas reported at least 2,622 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.

The letter signed by Nirenberg and others adds that mayors want the “ability for local authorities to enforce the wearing of face coverings in public venues where physical distancing cannot be practiced.”

The letter did not mention anything about penalties or fines for not wearing a face mask in public.

You can read the letter below.

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.