Nirenberg, Wolff ask Abbott for more local authority to fight COVID-19 in San Antonio region

Pair ask for authority to take 'additional local preventative measures, including potential Stay Home / Work Safe restrictions'

SAN ANTONIO – In the face of soaring COVID-19 cases, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff have asked Gov. Greg Abbott for more local authority to fight the disease, including new, possible “Stay Home, Work Safe” restrictions.

The pair sent a letter to Abbott on Monday saying that the situation in the San Antonio region required stronger protocols. At the top of a list of measures they ask Abbott to take is a request to restore the city’s ability “to take additional local preventative measures, including potential Stay Home / Work Safe restrictions, in concert with recommendations from our local health authority.”

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The pair had previously instituted so-called “Stay Home, Work Safe” orders in the early days of the pandemic, which shut down large parts of the city’s economy. However, Abbott has since taken the authority to make those kind of restrictions out of local hands and centralized the plans for reopening the state.

Speaking with KSAT on Tuesday, Nirenberg said he isn’t looking to institute a new Stay Home order right away, but he wants the option to take that step and smaller ones up to it.

“So what Judge Wolf and I have articulated to the governor is that we we need local authority and we need the ability to act quickly to implement measures to control the spread of this virus,” Nirenberg said. “No one wants to go back to stay home orders. It would be debilitating on a number of levels. But in order for us to avoid that, we’ve got to act quickly to slow the spread and all the other ways that we know how to do.”

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The letter also includes a list of other measures Nirenberg said health officials have said would help with the situation in San Antonio, including:

  • Limiting mass gatherings to 100 people, with no exceptions;
  • Limiting social gatherings to 10 people, including for family gatherings;
  • Limiting retail stores to 50% occupancy;
  • Working with local governmental entities to reduce density and promote physical distancing at Texas beaches; and
  • Mandating the use of face covering.

Nirenberg said if the governor won’t give them the power to make those changes, they want Abbott to institute them himself.

The Texas Tribune reported officials in other, large Texas counties have made similar requests to Abbott.

Abbott has taken some steps to fight the statewide surge in cases. On Thursday, he limited elective surgeries in several counties, including Bexar, and expanded that list Tuesday. On Friday, he ordered bars and tubing outfitters be closed and limited restaurants to half capacity.

Nirenberg called those measures “steps in the right direction,” but said everyone must work to limit physical interactions and stop the spread of the virus.

“If we do what the medical experts are telling us, we will we will get through this. And we just have to do that together and we have to do it with a sense of urgency,” Nirenberg said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Mayor said he was still waiting for a response from Abbott’s office.

You can read the letter to Abbott below:

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Dale Keller is senior news photographer at KSAT-12.

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