Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff welcomed county commissioners Tuesday morning by remarking it was a “historic meeting” – the first Commissioners Court meeting held by videoconference. 

“We’ll see how it works today,” he said.

Commissioners decided against convening in the same courtroom, as they have done throughout the coronavirus pandemic, after seeing rising numbers of local cases, County spokeswoman Monica Ramos said. Previously, commissioners met at the Bexar County Courthouse’s Commissioners Courtroom wearing masks and with ample space between their desks. Members of the public also were allowed to attend meetings with masks on and while following social distancing protocols.

“We don’t want to put the community, County staff, or our court members at risk,” Ramos said Monday afternoon in an email. “We have been and continue to encourage constituents to follow the meeting via our web stream and to sign up in advance to speak if they would like to.”

Bexar County’s positivity rate has declined somewhat, from a peak of 23.2 percent earlier this month to 15 percent this week. Health officials were unable to say Monday evening if new cases are beginning to level off.

In addition, Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) tested positive for coronavirus on Jan. 15, saying last week that he was recovering well with minimal symptoms. Calvert joined his colleagues Tuesday remotely, while the other commissioners participated from different parts of the Paul Elizondo Tower where their offices are located.

Commissioners had minimal difficulties with the new format Tuesday and approved an amendment that allowed Bexar County to allocate $1.4 million for restaurant and bar grants as part of the relief program started last fall and administered by microlender LiftFund. Nearly $88,000 of that will go toward LiftFund’s administrative fees.

After two hours – a relatively short Commissioners Court meeting – Calvert thanked his colleagues for adapting to meeting remotely.

“It worked out pretty well,” he said. “Good job, Judge, on leading us through this and hopefully we won’t have technological issues [in the future].”

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.