A mask lies discarded in the street.
A mask lies discarded in the street. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

My inbox was flooded with responses to Tuesday’s edition of The Curve, and there was near unanimity among the 150 or so people who responded: You disagree with the rescinding of the mask order and plan to continue wearing your masks.

Less than 24 hours after Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was recalling the state’s COVID-19 orders that have been in place for most of the pandemic, President Joe Biden compared the decision to “Neanderthal thinking.”

Even if I’ve become inured to the cynical reality of modern politics, I’ve tried to plumb the furthest depths of my imagination for what could have possibly warranted the governor’s decision but have had no luck. As Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted on Tuesday, “I just don’t get it.”

According to The Texas Tribune, the governor did not consult three of the four medical advisers on his coronavirus task force, a body he formed to ensure the state would base its decisions on the expertise of its members. One of them said he felt the mask mandate recall is coming too soon.

In an attempt to get out in front of the March 10 statewide unmasking, officials in elected and public health positions alike – in Texas and throughout the nation – have urged Texans to continue wearing their masks. Many businesses, large and small, have announced they will continue requiring masks on their premises.

Coronavirus cases had been falling throughout the country in the wake of a post-holiday surge but are now starting to tick back up. Some of that could be explained by the winter storm, during which testing and reporting of results dropped, but there are troubling signs of a more enduring uptick, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Now is not the time to stop wearing a mask,” she said.

Thanks to a directive from the U.S. Health and Human Services, teachers and child-care workers along with other education professionals have been added to the state’s list of eligible vaccine recipients effective immediately.

The University Health System had begun a program weeks ago that worked with school districts such as the San Antonio Independent School District to inoculate school workers that were eligible under phase 1B (age 65 or older or age 18 or older with a qualifying medical condition). Now, teachers and education professionals regardless of age or medical background can get the shot.

Beginning on March 22, University Health will focus primarily on vaccinating workers in child care and education. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Allen said the hospital system will be working with public and private schools to allocate doses for employees. Interested teachers and other school employees should inquire about getting vaccinated with their district office.

UHS is working on a plan to schedule appointments for private child care providers, who will also be eligible to sign up when appointments open again at the system’s Wonderland of the Americas mall vaccination site.

University Health has vaccinated more than 14,000 school district workers eligible under phases 1A and 1B, Allen said.

I’d like to close with a note of gratitude to my fellow San Antonians: Thank you for masking up and not, you know, shedding your droplets everywhere. Let’s all keep it up for the sake of our family, friends, loved ones, and neighbors! ¡Salud!

On Wednesday, a reported 190 new cases of coronavirus dropped the county’s seven-day average from 373 on Tuesday to 347. In its hospitals, the county is close to reaching a new milestone: 401 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital on Wednesday. The last time the patient count was below 400 was nearly two weeks before Thanksgiving.

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

  • 197,255 total cases, 190 new cases
  • 2,676 deaths, six new deaths
  • 401 in hospital, 9% beds available
  • 148 patients in intensive care
  • 86 patients on ventilators, 65% ventilators available
  • 256,863 residents vaccinated (at least one dose)
JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

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