During Monday night’s coronavirus briefing, County Judge Nelson Wolff said there have been more than 700 compliance checks around the county to ensure that businesses are requiring masks within their establishments – a mandate that went into effect early last week without opposition from Texas Governor, Greg Abbott. The governor had previously issued an executive order that banned local governments from imposing fines or penalties on people who opted to not to wear a face mask in public.
The face mask mandate originally came with a grace period in which to comply, but that has now come to an end. If businesses now violate the mandate requiring masks, they can face penalties of up to $1,000.
This comes at time when local officials all across the state are seeking authority from Governor Abbott to enforce local stay-at-home orders as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have surged in Bexar County and Texas in the recent weeks – an authority that was stripped away by Executive Orders instated by the governor.
Now these local leaders, including County Judge Nelson Wolff, are asking Governor Abbott for that authority back to reinstate local stay-at-home orders.
Since Abbott’s stay-at-home order expired at the end of April, and phased reopenings have occurred, local governments have been forced to follow the governor’s lead in terms of what they are able to enforce. Because of this, many local officials have been arguing that the jurisdiction to reinstate local stay at home orders is completely out of their hands.
What have local Bexar County officials asked the governor?
On Monday, officials in Bexar County wrote a letter to the governor, saying that “the ability to tailor a response and recovery that fits the San Antonio region’s need is vital as we look forward to a healthier future.”
“Our region’s hospital capacity issues and economic circumstances require stronger protocols to contain the spread of this disease,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg wrote. Both the judge and mayor asked Abbott to “restore the ability for the City of San Antonio to take additional local preventative measures, including potential Stay Home/Work Safe restrictions.”
In addition, Mayor Nirenberg and Judge Wolff requested that the governor mandate face coverings for people who are outside a household and issue “clearer language that strictly limits social gatherings…”
What lies ahead for local stay-at-home orders?
To date, there have been no new executive orders issued by the governor on statewide stay-home-orders. Nor has authority been restored to local government to enforce these requirements. Perhaps we will know more in the coming days.
Until then, stay safe and mask up.
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