Local youth football leagues play during back-to-back games Saturday on the St. Gerard Catholic High School football field. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

City officials recommended people stay home over Labor Day weekend, but hot spots such as the St. Mary’s Strip, the Pearl, and downtown bars and restaurants continued to see traffic typical of a normal weekend. Many patrons were flouting the City’s mask mandate.

At 7 p.m. Saturday a DJ was set up outside Botika, a Peruvian-Asian-inspired restaurant at the Pearl. An unmasked security guard observed the crowd as dozens of masked and unmasked patrons danced, seemingly forgetting that the coronavirus pandemic is underway. Tables surrounding the green space and outside the Food Hall were full of people enjoying fare from the various dining establishments, but at a reasonable social distance. 

On the near East Side on Saturday afternoon, local youth football leagues hosted back-to-back games on the St. Gerard Catholic High School football field, where unmasked coaches and players went about business as usual. In the stands, some spectators maintained an appropriate social distance, while others sat in groups of more than 10 with faces uncovered. 

And there were no signs of social distancing in the long lines for the field’s concessions stand and outside Bakery Lorraine at the Pearl.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Sunday afternoon that he hopes people are calling in any violations taking place throughout the city, because officials are enforcing the mandate, which requires every person 10 and older wear a covering over the nose and mouth inside a building open to the public, or in an outdoor public space, when it is not feasible to maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

People can report violations by calling (210) 207-SAPD (7273).

His reaction to news of the gatherings: “It’s not a normal weekend. Nothing about this is normal. 6 million Americans have been infected and nearly 200,000 have died in five months. We have to incorporate masks, social distancing, and avoiding large crowds, or we will prolong our collective misery.”

The blare from a loudspeaker at the Pearl blasting warnings for people to wear masks, keep a safe social distance, and wash their hands frequently paled in comparison to the sound of the bustling activity, which was heightened Saturday thanks to the farmers market, which was open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Shoppers walk through the Farmer’s market on Saturday morning. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Officials for weeks have warned that they are concerned that a spike in cases will follow the Labor Day weekend, which is just before schools are set to reopen for in-person instruction. 

While officials say they are ready for a potential spike, with case investigators trained and ample ability to test for COVID-19 throughout the community, it takes people following the rules to get the pandemic under control, Nirenberg said.

“There are things that are within our ability to control,” Nirenberg said in a text Sunday. “At this point, with the awareness and resources we have, the pandemic is one of them.”

San Antonio Police Department officers have been making sure area parks are not being utilized amid a weekend-long closure meant to quell the spread of the virus. But private spaces and businesses and residences are fair game for people to gather, and despite the mask mandate, people are choosing to not wear them. 

While the seven-day average of new cases in Bexar County is at its lowest since mid-June, down from a mid-July average of more than 1,500 new cases per day, experts urge the community to view the decline with “a bit of skepticism.”

“We’re not done with this,” said Juan Gutierrez, a mathematician who studies infectious disease and chairs the University of Texas at San Antonio’s math department. “We’re just starting. We have been in this situation for six months; this could last for another year and a half.”

Nirenberg’s advice for San Antonians continues to be short and simple: 

“Stay the course.”

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.