Officials in the San Antonio area have ordered people to wear face masks in public when social distancing isn’t practical amid a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas as the state continues to reopen itself.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff issued an executive order Wednesday mandating the precautions. In a press conference, Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg voiced concerns about younger people contracting the virus and infecting older family members.
“What we are doing here is to protect the life and safety of the San Antonio community,” Nirenberg said.
The order comes after Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, acknowledged that many Texas residents have become lax in wearing masks and social distancing following the lifting of statewide restrictions. He has said he will not require the public to wear masks but is asking people to take greater personal responsibility.
Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened to sue the cities of Dallas, Austin and San Antonio if they didn’t back off from “unlawful” local orders that were tougher than Abbott’s restrictions.
Wolff said he reached out to Abbott’s office Wednesday to notify him of his executive order. He said he hoped the governor would be supportive. Abbott’s spokesman John Whittman said the order doesn’t conflict with the governor’s mandates.
“Our office urges officials and the public to adopt and follow the health protocols for businesses established by doctors,” Wittman said.
Texas had 2,793 COVID-19 hospitalizations Wednesday, a record high and an 85 percent increase since Memorial Day. Abbott said hospitals can handle the influx of patients.
Several cities in the state sent a letter to Abbott asking for local authorities to enforce the wearing of face masks. In a social media post about the letter, Nirenberg said a “one-size-fits-all approach won’t work.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.