Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Thursday said ending the statewide order requiring the use of masks in public spaces would be a mistake.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Thursday said ending the statewide order requiring the use of masks in public spaces would be a mistake. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Gov. Greg Abbott suggested he may soon end the statewide mask mandate, a move Mayor Ron Nirenberg said would be a “big mistake” during a Thursday COVID-19 briefing.

Teasing a forthcoming announcement, Abbott on Thursday said the state is considering whether to lift its coronavirus-related orders as vaccinations continue throughout Texas. Only 5% of the state’s residents were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, however.

Enacted in July, a state COVID-19 order requires residents age 10 or older, with some exceptions, to wear face coverings inside commercial buildings and in outdoor public spaces where social distancing is impossible. But Nirenberg said lifting the orders would make it difficult to continue to control the local coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re seeing immunity increase,” he said. “In fact, I was very excited to see the numbers of vaccines that have been administered in our community. So far, I think it’s about 225,000. But the health professionals are clear that, especially with the variants that are transmitted in our community, now is not the time to let down our masks.”

He was joined by San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo and Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (Pct. 2) in that assessment.

“Even with the vaccine, our public health professionals are telling us to continue to wear a mask, and so I think it would be it would be contrary to our public health guidance,” Rodriguez said. “But it would also I think send the wrong message to our community that somehow we’re over the hump.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear masks over their nose and mouth in addition to keeping 6 feet of distance between themselves and others, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing their hands frequently – even if they have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Nirenberg said he is hoping the City of San Antonio will receive more first-dose shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine early next week to deliver more vaccinations at the Alamodome. The mayor has warned that the mass vaccination site may have to close if it does not receive more doses.

Nirenberg said the allotment is estimated to be around 10,000 doses.

“If we do in fact get those doses, we will schedule them immediately,” he said.

Four more deaths brought the local COVID-19 death toll to 2,514 on Thursday as Bexar County approaches the March anniversary of its first coronavirus case.

The deceased included a Black man in his 30s, two Hispanic women in their 90s, and a white woman in her 90s.

Here are the local coronavirus numbers as of 7 p.m. Thursday:

  • 194,736 total cases, 404 new cases
  • 2,514 deaths, four new deaths
  • 494 in hospital, 8% beds available
  • 194 patients in intensive care
  • 111 patients on ventilators, 64% ventilators available
  • 224,701 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)

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