Bexar County Judge says he will shut down bars again if COVID-19 rate climbs higher

Community Response Coalition also recommended shutting down dine-in services at restaurants, Judge Nelson Wolff does not have authority to do that

SAN ANTONIO – The COVID-19 Community Response Coalition (CRC) on Tuesday offered Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recommendations for bars if the community positivity rate is equal to or exceeds 10% for two consecutive weeks.

Bexar County officials said Wolff will follow the coalition’s recommendations.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg reported Monday that the area’s positivity rate increased 1% percent since last week and is now at 9.4%. If the positivity rate continues to increase at that pace, bars could be closed again as early as the first week of December.

The county says there are currently 2,009 bars and restaurants with alcohol permits that are allowed to open under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s October executive order. Wolff, and other county judges, were authorized last month to opt-in through the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to reopen bars that don’t serve food, but the bars must close at 11 p.m.

Wolff opted in on Oct. 14 to allow the bars to reopen, which took effect Oct. 21.

On Nov. 13, he emailed Bridger in light of rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations about the possibility of opting out of the provision that allows for the bars that don’t serve food to reopen to help slow the spread.

In an email to Metro Health interim director and Assistant City Manager Dr. Colleen Bridger, the CRC said that waiting to reach a 15% hospitalization threshold, as identified in Abbott’s order for reopening bars, would be too late.

The CRC says since the county is already close to reaching a 10% community positivity rate, taking action sooner would slow down the spread.

The coalition also recommended shutting down dine-in eating at restaurants since close contact with persons with known COVID-19 or going to locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options were associated with COVID-19 positivity.

“Adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Wolff does not have the authority to end dine-in services at restaurants, and only Abbott would be able to make that change in his order.

About the Author:

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and includes covering breaking news of the day, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" and "KSAT Money" series.