With masks no longer mandatory in the state of Texas, Bexar County and the University Health have partnered to encourage San Antonians to continue wearing face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

The county and UH launched a campaign Monday morning to encourage local residents to keep wearing their face masks in public, reasserting that masks are a proven method of limiting the spread of the coronavirus. The campaign follows Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to lift the statewide mask mandate earlier this month, a decision that earned him criticism from some local business owners and applause from others. 

“Masks protect all of us, and I choose to wear a mask to protect my family and others around me,” UHS President and CEO George Hernández Jr. said in a statement announcing the campaign. “University Health has been at the forefront of this battle against COVID-19 since the beginning. We know firsthand how wearing masks and other science-based steps prevent transmission and save lives.”

The goal of the joint county and UHS campaign is to engage community members and show that local health and county leaders support mask wearing as local case numbers plateau.

The joint effort will be a social media campaign that will promote pro-mask messages and stories via Facebook, Twitter, and other avenues, Bexar County assistant public information officer Thomas Peine said. No money will be allocated for the campaign, as it will be all online, he said.

“Even with a vaccine, someone can still spread the virus,” Peine said. “Plus there’s the new variants to consider. We want to spread the word and to appeal to others to share their own reasons why” they’re masking up.

Over the past two months, Bexar County has seen a decline in coronavirus cases. Within the last two weeks that decline has leveled out, prompting fears from health officials that another spike could be looming.

While vaccine rollout continues across the state and the hospital census remains relatively small, some in the local medical community worry about the ramifications of Texas’ reopening and mask mandate removal.

The effects of the state mask mandate lifting and of two weeks of spring break won’t be known for several weeks, but officials are urging residents to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing. 

“We have worked together this last year to control the spread of COVID-19,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said in the joint statement. “As we are getting close to conquering this, it remains vitally important to see it through to the end. When we wear a mask we protect not only ourselves, but all those around us.”

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...