In their effort to find an inch of slack within Gov. Greg Abbott’s far-reaching statewide order ending mask mandates, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Mayor Ron Nirenberg will sign a new order requiring businesses to display their mask policy outside their stores.
Wolff said the order is compliant with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order issued last week because the decision to mandate masks will still lie with the business and not government. The order says businesses must post their COVID-19 protocols in a visible location.
“We’re not telling them what [to do] because we cannot tell them what [to do], but many businesses will require a face mask,” Wolff said. “We think it’s important to the person coming to that business to know whether they’re entering a safe environment or not and let them make that decision.”
If a patron of a business does not comply with the publicly displayed order, a representative of the business can call 911 to have either the San Antonio Police Department or Bexar County Sheriff’s Department take appropriate action.
“If the customer is belligerent or combative, we’re asking the business owner not to take the law into their own hands [but] to please call the police,” District Attorney Joe Gonzales said Tuesday. “Let them handle it. … If the customer continues to refuse then the officer has the right to use his discretion and make an arrest for criminal trespass.”
In Austin and Travis County, officials have taken an altogether different approach. Austin City Council announced on Tuesday that its residents would still be required to wear masks. The measure comes as a directive from the public health authority rather than a county judge or mayor.
Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger said the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District has held talks with the City Attorney’s office about enacting a similar measure.
“Right now our understanding of the law is that this does not fall within the purview of the health authority,” Bridger said. “But we will continue to look at it.”
About 175,000 Bexar County residents have been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, accounting for about 11 percent of the eligible population. Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Bexar County has the highest percentage of fully vaccinated residents among Texas’ five most populous counties.
A total of 171 new coronavirus cases reported on Tuesday brings the seven-day average down to 186. The 262 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday account for 6.8% of all Bexar County hospital patients.
Six fatalities reported on Tuesday brought the local death toll above 2,850. Among the deceased were three Hispanic men, in their 30s, 50s, and 70s; one Hispanic woman in her 70s; one white man in his 60s; and one white woman in her 70s.
Here are the local coronavirus numbers as of 7 p.m. Tuesday:
- 198,969 total cases, 171 new cases
- 2,853 deaths, six new deaths
- 262 in hospital, 12% beds available
- 120 patients in intensive care
- 76 patients on ventilators, 64% ventilators available
- 295,064 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)