Bexar County officials defend horse auction scheduled for next week at Freeman Coliseum

Exception for equestrian events cited for event moving forward, despite temporary ban on large gatherings

Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall
Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – County officials on Friday defended a horse auction at the Freeman Coliseum scheduled for next week that will move forward despite an ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in San Antonio and restrictions on large gatherings.

The Texas Quarter Horse Association Annual Yearling Sale is scheduled for July 24-25, inside expo hall B, according to a description of the event on the association’s website.

When ordering masks to be worn in most Texas counties earlier this month, Governor Greg Abbott allowed local entities more control in limiting public gatherings and also put his own restrictions in place.

According to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff’s latest executive order, updated Wednesday, public gatherings in excess of 10 people are prohibited in Bexar County.

There are, however, 13 exceptions to this section of the order, one of which covers equestrian events.

A county spokeswoman told the Defenders Friday via email that Wolff was comfortable with the auction taking place as long as safety protocols and social distancing measures are followed.

The spokeswoman said even though the horses will be located inside the expo hall, a majority of the potential bidders will be conducting business virtually.

“Less than 100 people will be in the building at any one time over the 2-day period, with most of these being animal handlers and caretakers,” the spokeswoman said via email. “Given the capacity of the building and the size of these animals and their pens, social distancing is not anticipated to be an issue. However, the event will be closely monitored to ensure social distancing and protocols for temperature taking will be in place and enforced. Facial coverings are required and hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the event space.”

Area health officials on Thursday announced 691 new cases of the deadly virus as well as more than 4,800 cases that had been backlogged at several laboratories.

The coliseum and its surrounding buildings are county-owned but have a separate budget and their own employees, the spokeswoman said.

TQHA’s executive director did not respond to an email seeking comment Friday.

A portion of the expo hall is also on standby as a makeshift hospital.

Officials said as recently as July 7 it could be put into use if hospital capacity in San Antonio fell “well below” 10 percent.

The region, to date, has been able to stay above that threshold and as of Thursday night had 12 percent of staffed hospital beds still available.

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