Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff issued new stay-at-home orders Wednesday to align with the governor’s executive order. Both take effect Wednesday.
The new requirements and guidelines come as Bexar County hit 1,326 total coronavirus cases on Wednesday, an addition of 19 from the previous day. Two deaths also were reported Wednesday, bringing the total to 46. One was reported too late in the day for officials to have details, but the other was a Hispanic woman in her 60s with underlying medical conditions, Nirenberg said.
The new stay-at-home orders are largely the same as before but include certain directives for businesses reopening on Friday. Gov. Greg Abbott issued an accompanying document with his executive order Monday that outlined recommended practices for movie theaters, retail stores, restaurants, museums, and libraries. The City’s and Bexar County’s orders include those as requirements.
“We felt there was some good information in there,” Wolff said. Making the recommendations in Abbott’s plan mandatory “doesn’t invalidate the governor’s orders, it just gives teeth to it. And so we’re putting that in there.”
Nirenberg will ask City Council on Thursday to approve his new stay-at-home order through May 18, the same day the governor’s order ends. City Council is expected to approve the new order.
The local orders still include a face mask requirement for everyone 10 years of age or older when visiting a public space where it’s difficult to stay 6 feet away from others. Though Abbott prohibits local governments from enforcing that rule by imposing a civil or criminal penalty, Wolff said he and Nirenberg felt it was important to keep the rule.
Everything else in the local orders can be enforced with penalties, City Attorney Andy Segovia said.
“Everything else that’s in this order in terms of limiting gatherings and other requirements on businesses, those can still be enforced by the City and by the County,” he said. “So really the only limitation that was placed with the governor’s order, with respect to civil or criminal penalties, was on the face covering [rule].”
Wolff added that businesses want to protect their employees and customers and can continue to require face masks in their stores.
“If somebody tries to go into a store and [does not] have that mandatory face mask … that could be a criminal trespass [charge],” Wolff said. “So it may not have the fine, but there’s other measures.”
Violations of the City order can be punished with a fine up to $2,000 per incident, while the County order states violators face fines up to $1,000 or jail time of up to 180 days.
Gatherings outside of a household are still prohibited under the new orders, while businesses may still continue to operate on a curbside or delivery basis. As established by Abbott’s executive order Monday, movie theaters, malls, retail stores, museums, and libraries may allow people inside up to 25 percent of their capacities. Restaurants can serve people for dine-in services under the same occupancy limit.
Golf courses remain open under the new orders and people may participate in outdoor sports with a maximum of four players at a time. City and County park areas such as basketball courts, splash pads, and playgrounds do not allow for effective social distancing and will remain closed, according to the local orders.
Though not a mandate, both the City and County stay-at-home orders request that people interested in antibody testing use only FDA-approved tests.
“There’s a lot of questions about that, but at least we have a narrative that they should not be taking a test … that have not been certified by the FDA,” Wolff said.
Though “nonessential” businesses will be reopening Friday, licensed child care services seem to remain open only to essential workers, Segovia said.
“That’s not clear from the State yet,” he said. “But I would expect that it would make sense that if the expectation is for some of those stores to be open, then workers from those now-reopened businesses to have licensed child care available for them.”
City Council and Bexar County commissioners will meet Tuesday to discuss the economic transition team’s report on reopening local businesses and activities.