Fiesta events in June will be held at full capacity, the Fiesta commission announced on Monday.
Fiesta events in June will be held at full capacity, the Fiesta commission announced on Monday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

Next month’s Fiesta will be held at 100% capacity, the commission that organizes it announced on Monday.

Local coronavirus numbers have hit thresholds the commission set, in collaboration with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and COVID-19 expert Dr. Marty Makary, to allow full-capacity events. Those metrics include a seven-day moving average below 250 cases, a weekly positivity rate below 5%, and a percentage of fully vaccinated people above 40%. Bexar County is meeting all of those criteria.

It was an easier call to make given Fiesta is largely held outdoors, officials said.

“The thing that gives me the most comfort is the fact that these events are outdoors, and we’ve known for a long time that COVID transmission outdoors is much less risky than indoors,” said Colleen Bridger, the assistant city manager who heads the City’s pandemic response.

A Monday press release states unvaccinated people will be required to mask up for Fiesta events held on City property. Fully vaccinated people are encouraged to wear masks in crowded areas. People will be on the honor system, however, as San Antonio will not require proof of one’s vaccination status, Bridger said.

For many people, the 180-degree turn from overcaution to throwing caution to the wind has elicited discomfort. And, I’ll admit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s about-face last week on COVID-19 protocols for the fully vaccinated had me a little bit anxious.

But this weekend I experienced my first pandemic-era social gathering sans mask, and it was near-cathartic. This “new normal” is almost actually normal.

Almost overnight, the CDC’s updated recommendations have changed the face of this pandemic – just as quickly as the agency’s 2020 guidance urging mask usage altered the landscape. Masks were the most jarring and public sign that our community was under siege and unwell.

Now that we who are fully vaccinated have the option to remove them, a collective trauma feels like it is being exorcised from society. I underestimated the effect it could have.

Things really are looking up. On Sunday, Texas recorded its first day without COVID-19-caused deaths in more than a year. Per the new CDC guidance, the City of San Antonio is allowing fully vaccinated people to shed their masks in municipal facilities, and social distancing requirements are no more. Hundreds of recently eligible adolescents in Bexar County are getting vaccinated each day.

The pandemic is not over yet. More than 230 new cases were reported today, and the vaccination rate in Bexar County, while promising with nearly 50% of the population fully vaccinated, must continue to rise as the county approaches the toughest stretch yet of the local vaccination program: persuading and reaching out to those who won’t seek the shot out.

But the long-awaited return of Fiesta, albeit delayed a couple of months, will breathe life back into a city that thrives on communal gatherings. For some of us, it will feel like the end of the pandemic. For the rest, the vaccine stands ready to abrazarlos.

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.