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San Antonio City Council Issues Indefinite Public Health Emergency Order, COVID-19 Crisis Continues

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Joey Palacios
/
Texas Public Radio
The San Antonio City Council voted unanimously to continue the orders until further notice.

The San Antonio City Council approved an indefinite public health emergency declaration Thursday in a unanimous vote.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s eighth public health emergency order will stand until further notice. While the state has its own emergency orders in place, the city is keeping a standing declaration to qualify for financial assistance and reimbursement from the federal government. Later in the evening, health officials declared a second wave of the virus had arrived in Bexar County.

Nirenberg said the indefinite order is designed to be reflective of the state.

“The governor’s orders largely control the pace at which things are opening and some of the conditions at which they’re opening, but some of our orders are important for alignment, as well as ensuring we’re FEMA-eligible for reimbursement,” he said.

Previous public health orders had expiration dates, which allowed the city to reevaluate the situation before creating new orders.

Texas began authorizing the reopening of businesses in the beginning of May. Early Thursday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported more than 2,500 cases of the coronavirus. The highest seen in a single day.

Municipalities in Texas are not able to issue any further restrictions — such as closing businesses or mandating facemasks — due to state order superseding local decisions.

“We think that people are generally listening to health guidance, but we knew that there was going to be an increase in transmission as we see activities and businesses open up,” Nirenberg said shortly after the council vote. “We just have to manage that. If there is any kind of retrenchment that needs to occur locally or across the state, that’s a bridge that we have yet to cross, but we’ll be ready if we do.”

San Antonio Metro Health issued several health directives Thursday afternoon, asking residents to continue practices like social distancing and wearing facemasks, as well as encouraging business owners to retain health protocols.

“All businesses and persons should act in good faith and increase efforts and resources to follow the standard health protocols recommended by the Texas Department of State and Health Services. Health protocols such as training employees on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, screening employees temperatures before coming into a business and asking if they have symptoms are essential to maintaining a healthy environment,” the directives said.

Hours later, health officials declared San Antonio was entering “a second wave” of COVID-19 transmission as Bexar County saw a continued increase of cases. Nearly 200 new cases were announced Thursday night, 135 on Wednesday and 180 on Tuesday.

The increase was attributed to recent reopening and Memorial Day activities.

Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.

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