San Antonio City Council extends stay-at-home order as city eyes expanded COVID-19 testing

Joshua Fechter

The City Council extended Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s latest stay-at-home order through May 19 as local leaders prepare for some businesses to reopen Friday amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry was the only member to vote against extending the order.

Meanwhile, Metro Health Director Dawn Emerick said her department is trying to expand the number of COVID-19 tests conducted locally.

On average, the city and county conduct 1,600 tests a day. Metro Health aims to boost that to 3,000 by June 30.

Public and private providers had performed 24,171 tests as of Wednesday, according to the latest figures.

Metro Health plans to look for people who may be infected with the virus but aren’t showing symptoms and may be spreading the disease unwittingly, Emerick said.

“We just don’t know the prevalence of asymptomatics in our community,” Emerick said. “We just don’t know.”

The city also plans to expand access to testing for those showing symptoms, including the establishment of walk-up mobile testing sites in low-income parts of the city that may not otherwise have access to testing. The Texas Military Department is expected to add three more testing sites.

San Antonio also will expand testing for all nursing home residents and employees, the homeless and those with chronic kidney disease — whether they’re showing symptoms or not.

In general, local testing is still limited to residents who have symptoms.

On average, the number of cases has doubled every two-and-a-half weeks since Nirenberg enacted his first public health emergency order March 13, Emerick said. Before that order, they were doubling every three days.

On Gov. Abbott pushes Friday reopening even as Texas misses benchmarks set by his advisers

Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott lifted some restrictions on business, allowing retailers, malls, restaurants and movie theaters to reopen Friday at 25 percent of allowed capacity.

Abbott also forbade cities and counties from fining or citing residents who don’t wear masks or cloth face coverings over their nose and mouth when they’re out in public.

Nirenberg’s order still requires people 10 years or older to wear masks or cloth face coverings when they’re in a public place like a grocery store or pharmacy where it’s difficult to keep physical distance of 6 feet from others.

San Antonio will not be able to enforce that rule through fines or citations, but can do so for other violations of the order.

Businesses allowed to reopen under Abbott’s plan must provide face coverings to employees who work in close quarters with one another, per the city’s order.

On Get the latest update on coronavirus and a tracking map of U.S. cases

Abbott is eyeing more reopenings May 18 for businesses such as bars, barber shops and salons. Businesses will be able to open at 50 percent capacity at that time, if the state hasn’t seen a new rash of COVID-19 cases.

This is a developing story. Check back with

for updates.

Joshua Fechter is a staff writer covering San Antonio government and politics. To read more from Joshua, become a subscriber. | Twitter: @JFreports

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