No fines for not wearing a mask, local leaders criticize governor’s decision

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) –   Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff  says “the worst decision” Governor Greg Abbott made in issuing his new Public Health Emergency orders effective May 1st  is not requiring masks in public.

While encouraging Texans to wear face coverings, Abbott  said there are no fines or penalties for not wearing one.   The governor also stressed that his orders supersede those of local jurisdictions.

“I thought that was a mistake,” said Wolff.  “I believe under the order we’ll be able to make it mandatory and that’s what we’ll be reviewing over the next few days.”

Wolff acknowledges they won’t be able to  impose a fine or jail time for not wearing a face covering, but they can still make it mandatory in public places where it’s not possible to stay at least six feet away from others.  He said they’ll lean on businesses to help enforce the mandatory mask order.

“An employer has every right in the world to say ‘you can’t come into my place of  business if you’re not wearing a mask,’ so that’ll be one of our backups,” said Wolff.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg says the orders that are in place in San Antonio and Bexar County have helped contain the spread of COVID-19.  Those orders are set to expire April 30, but Nirenberg and Wolff  will be issuing new Stay Home Work Safe orders after they hear from the Health Transition Team. Bexar County Commissioners and the San Antonio City Council will meet in a rare joint session Tuesday afternoon.

“Texas is in a position of success because the cities of this state and the local communities, in general, have worked to limit the spread of the virus through various measures–physical distancing, limiting public gatherings, wearing a mask– things that we know from our public health officials work to contain the spread of a disease,” said Nirenberg.

Wolff agrees with the governor’s plan to reopen certain businesses Friday with the restrictions to maintain 25 percent occupancy.   Abbott announced that retail stores, shopping malls, restaurants and movie theaters can open under those limitations, and if the spread of coronavirus is contained, the occupancy may be raised to 50 percent in Phase 2, which will be announced May 18.

Nirenberg announced Monday evening that the number of COVID-19 cases in San Antonio has risen to 1,275.  There was one new death, a Hispanic woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions, bringing the death toll to 44.

Fifty-nine people remain hospitalized and 16 patients are in ventilators.



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