SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg joined Wednesday’s KSAT Q&A to discuss the new health directive that enforced a mask mandate in public schools and addressed a question many are asking right now -- “What happens if an entity doesn’t want to comply?”
With a 7-day average of 1,325 cases and a positivity rate of 21.4%, Nirenberg says local leaders are trying to stop the spread of the virus by implementing measures to keep students safe. However, those measures have already experienced some pushback from some local school districts.
Nirenberg told anchors Steve Spriester and Myra Arthur that the Metropolitan Health District’s “health directive has the force of law. It is a directive. It is not optional.”
“Students, teachers, staff need to be wearing masks in local public schools under the public health directive and (Dr. Junda Woo’s) jurisdiction,” he said, referring to the Bexar County Health Authority and medical director of Metro Health.
Nirenberg explained that the city and county would once again go to court on Monday morning after a judge granted a temporary restraining order this week against Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates in schools.
“I believe and expect that to go well, at which time I think we’ll be having some further conversations. We will cross that bridge on enforcement when we get there. We do hope we’re going to get some voluntary compliance with the order,” Nirenberg told Spriester and Arthur.
When asked if there were any penalties for those entities that don’t wish to comply with the directive, the mayor said those questions would be brought up during Monday’s hearing.
Abbott’s office responded to the TRO granted by the judge earlier this week by saying his emergency order has been challenged and upheld before.
“If the governor is going to dig in on not protecting our children, not protecting the public from this pandemic, then I would say he’s waging a battle without honor or humanity,” Nirenberg said.
Nirenberg says the city and county are asking a judge to find that local health authorities and officials, granted in the state law statute, have emergency responsibilities and authority to deal with the public health emergency.
“It is, again, as I’ve said before, tragic and ironic that the governor would use his own emergency powers to suspend our ability at the local level to deal with a crisis that has overwhelmed our hospitals, that has killed our loved ones and continues to accelerate across this country,” Nirenberg said.
“The governor has bound our hands and has used his emergency power to tie the hands of local officials and local health authorities from doing what they’re responsible for, which is to protect their local communities from disease outbreak that’s reached pandemic levels,” the mayor continued.
Nirenberg said the city and county knew they had to get involved after the Centers for Disease Control implemented new masking guidance amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, many of which were of the Delta variant.
Regarding the 2,500 medical workers being deployed to Texas to help combat the rising number of hospitalizations, the mayor said he hopes to get some of those deployed health professionals in our area.
“Our medical system, our hospitals are stretched beyond their capacity,” he said.
Nirenberg said Abbott is calling in others to help out when there is a surge in cases that could have been prevented if proper state precautions had been implemented earlier.
“Now that there is a raging fire in our community, he wants to call in others to help us put it out. We need that help. But unfortunately, it’s the governor’s actions that have put us right in this situation to begin with,” Nirenberg said.
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