Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday announced he is rescinding the statewide mask mandate and business capacity limits effective March 10.
Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday announced he is rescinding the statewide mask mandate and business capacity limits effective March 10. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

On Saturday, an H-E-B shopper with a sickly cough passed by me in the narrow aisles of a downtown store when he hawked from deep in his lungs. He was maskless.

I told a store employee about it knowing my grievance would not be redressed (H-E-B, in my opinion, rightly does not intervene when customers flout mask orders) only because I was in such shock that I needed to tell someone, anyone, in order to process what happened. And once I had checked out and purchased my groceries, I quickly made for the exit. I was already on the freeway heading home when I realized I had forgotten the made-to-order pizza I had bought.

Perhaps it was a preview of what is to come. As you probably heard by now, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday rescinded statewide COVID-19 orders including mandatory mask use and restrictions on business capacity. The measure is effective March 10.

Gov. Greg Abbott did not give local leaders a heads-up that he was set to revoke the statewide COVID-19 orders that have been in place for most of the pandemic, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.

“He surprised all of us,” he said. “They just did it.”

Earlier in the day, the county judge called the governor’s order “bullshit” and said he feared it would endanger lives in San Antonio.

Even though the mask issue has been politicized in the past, he said mask use enjoys broad support in Bexar County, among conservatives and liberals alike.

“I haven’t talked to a soul – Republican or Democrat – who thinks this is a good idea,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a Tuesday briefing. Nirenberg urged local businesses to continue to require face coverings.

Even if the governor follows through on his promise of vaccinating all Texas seniors who want the shot by the end of March and the vaccine rollout rapidly accelerates, it will still take months to inoculate a significant proportion of adults. Children remain ineligible for the shot until the fall at the earliest.

Although the state outbreak has fallen since its peak in January, Texas’ daily coronavirus case rate ranks high in comparison to other states. The state ranks 54th among states and federal territories in its COVID-19 vaccination rate, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What do you think of Abbott’s announcement? Will you continue to mask up in public? Will you avoid in-person activities in light of this? Do you believe a sense of personal responsibility will uphold mask use in San Antonio? Let us know.

A day after local hospitals saw a hike in COVID-19 patients, the county saw a drop in hospitalizations, falling from 464 on Monday to 418 on Tuesday. With 249 cases reported on Tuesday, the seven-day average stands at 373. The local coronavirus death toll has remained at 2,670 for the third consecutive day.

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

  • 197,065 total cases, 249 new cases
  • 2,670 deaths, no new deaths
  • 418 in hospital, 10% beds available
  • 158 patients in intensive care
  • 90 patients on ventilators, 64% ventilators available
  • 248,134 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)

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