San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Saturday that COVID-19 protocols had nothing to do with partisan politics and were intended to protect public health.
He was responding to comments made by Bexar County Republican Party Chair Cynthia Brehm at a Friday news conference, who claimed Democrats were using the COVID-19 crisis to undermine President Donald Trump.
A video of the event was shared on social media.
“All of this has been promulgated by the Democrats to undo all the good that President Trump has done for our country, and they are worried,” she said, referring to the COVID-19 crisis and the governmental response.
“So take off your masks, exercise your constitutional rights, stand up, speak up and vote Republican,” Brehm added.
She could then be seen hugging a couple of supporters, while others shook hands nearby.
Absolutely bizarre. The Bexar County GOP chair concludes this rally by stating that the coronavirus is a hoax perpetuated by Democrats, tells people to take off their masks, and then everyone hugs each other. pic.twitter.com/1XOFeswMiO
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) May 22, 2020
In a statement released by the mayor’s office on Saturday, Nirenberg stated: “There are political leaders across the political spectrum who are affirming the objective science behind wearing a face covering if you can’t properly practice physical distancing. This isn’t a partisan issue. We have to look beyond politics and trust our health experts.”
Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, also responded on Saturday.
“Texas already ranks first in the nation in coronavirus spread," he said. "Simply put, comments like the ones Chairwoman Brehm made will kill more Texans. Encouraging Texans to remove their masks and ignore the fatal consequences of this pandemic will jeopardize the health and wellbeing of all of us."
On Saturday night, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff reacted to Brehm's comments with humor. He said her claims reminded him of advice he received from the late County Commissioner Paul Elizondo.
“Paul said, 'We gotta run for re-election again,' and I said, 'Paul, why would we want to do that? You know we’re getting a little bit older.' And he says, 'There’s too many damn crazy people running for office.' It’s a good example."
The mayor’s office reported Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican like Brehm, supports wearing face masks.
On Saturday night, Nirenberg held up a mask and added that wearing one symbolizes the respect the person has for the health of others in the community.
“This is protecting your neighbor, protecting your loved ones, protecting other people from the spreading of this virus," he said, "and so ... if we’re going to have respect for others, this is one way we can do it during a pandemic.”
The exchange of comments came after the state released figures on Friday showing local unemployment tripling from April to May to 13.7% after state and local executive orders forced many businesses to close and layoff workers.
Nirenberg and Wolff have both expressed support for restarting the economy, but also have encouraged a measured approach so as to not cause a spike in cases.
The major goal of the executive orders has been to flatten the curve of cases and to keep hospital beds and ventilators from being overrun, which could put healthcare providers in the ethical position of making life and death decisions.
They have encouraged all along for everyone to wear masks while on essential business, but the governor’s executive orders do not allow them to enforce fines on those without them.
Nirenberg said that the demand on hospital beds has seen an uptick and did warrant closer monitoring. Metro Health has reported at least 66 deaths and more than 2,400 positive cases of COVID-19.
A local emergency order remains in effect until June 4 for residents to stay home except for essential errands, but executive orders by the governor have opened restaurants, movie houses, bars, parks, rivers, lakes, and other public venues, encouraging many to venture out.
Brehm is running for re-election as county GOP chair and will face John Austin in a runoff election on July 14.
TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.