SAN ANTONIO – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order, which further removes the tools of local governments to enact policies that public health experts say would help curb the spread of COVID-19, was sharply criticized by San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Thursday.
Under the executive order, governmental entities cannot “compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.”
It also removes the ability of local officials to reduce business capacity even if COVID-19 hospitalizations exceeded 15% of total hospital capacity in the region for seven consecutive days. The governor afforded county judges that power in a previous executive order, before the reversal on Thursday.
“It is tragically ironic that Gov. Abbott continues his emergency order but has taken away the tools for us to mitigate that very emergency,” Nirenberg said in a statement. “The governor has shown a callous disregard for life and safety in defiance of clear medical guidance and is risking the safety of our children and the recovery of our economy.”
On Wednesday, Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff penned a letter to the governor seeking his permission to allow schools to require face masks. Though Abbott did not write back to them, his new order makes clear that all government entities, including schools, cannot mandate face masks as students prepare to return to in-person instruction.
The officials also asked for more resources to alleviate the strain on hospitals as COVID-19 admissions have more than quadrupled over the past month. Nirenberg said Abbott has yet to respond to that request.
COVID-19 cases are surging throughout Texas and the rest of the country. On Wednesday, Texas reported 10,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time since Feb. 9.
Likewise, hospitalizations have been on the rise. In Bexar County, roughly 140 people were hospitalized in early July. As of Thursday, that number now stands at 695.