Bexar County Commissioners consider COVID-19 testing for SA Stock Show and Rodeo

Rodeo spokeswoman: “not only financially, but logistically a challenge”

SAN ANTONIO – Bexar County commissioners are considering paying to test San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo attendees for COVID-19, but rodeo organizers aren’t interested.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert raised the idea of testing rodeo attendees with the county footing the bill during Tuesday’s Bexar County Commissioners Court meeting. The rodeo will take place at Freeman Coliseum from Feb. 11 to 28, and spokeswoman Lauren Sides told KSAT they expect about 5,800 attendees each day between the rodeo and the stock barns.

“We don’t want the county to be having the egg on our face that the Canelo fight had with the Alamodome,” Calvert said Wednesday.

Speaking with KSAT on Thursday, Calvert said the idea would be to do 15-minute rapid tests or have people come the day before so they could be expedited through the line.

Calvert said it hadn’t been his call to have the rodeo, “but if it is going to happen, then I think the community expects us to have a standard for the kinds of events that we have. And I would say that that standard needs to be higher than what Metro Health has currently put out, and that should include rapid testing.”

A proposal with details and costs for testing has not yet been hammered out. The commissioners are next scheduled to meet on Feb. 9 -- two days before the start of the rodeo.

However, Sides said rapid testing for entry was “not only financially but logistically a challenge for us. So it is not something that we are looking to do for the 2021 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.”

Pressed on the financial aspect, given that commissioners are considering paying for the testing -- not the rodeo -- Sides said “that will be up to the discretion of our executive committee.”

Sides also noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend testing for entry at events. The CDC website says:

“Testing all event attendees and staff for COVID-19 before allowing them to enter the venue has not been systematically studied. It is unknown if entry testing at event venues provides any additional reduction in person-to-person transmission of the virus beyond what would be expected with other preventive measures (such as social distancing, wearing cloth face coverings, hand washing, enhanced cleaning and disinfection).

“CDC does recommend conducting health checks such as temperature screening and/or symptom checking of staff and attendees safely and respectfully, and in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.”

When asked at the Wednesday night briefing about the testing idea, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff indicated he did not think testing everyone was feasible. The rodeo has said it plans to limit capacity inside the Freeman Coliseum itself to about 3,800.

“I’ve asked (pandemic incident commander) Colleen Bridger, to lay us out some guidelines of what’s practical of testing people,” Wolff said. “Obviously 4,000 people show up for a show. It’s impossible to test all them. It’d take you about 800 hours to do it.”

The rodeo plans to check temperatures and require masks. There won’t be a carnival this year, and tickets are only available through resale.

City spokesman Jeff Coyle told KSAT the following in a texted statement:

“The Rodeo is permitted to be open under the Governor’s Executive Order. Metro Health met with Rodeo officials, reviewed their safety plan and offered some recommendations. The Rodeo is a County event in a County facility, so operational decisions are up to the County.”

About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.