March will be a busy month for the Alamo City and its starved economy. Some are concerned it could also see increased virus spread.
SAN ANTONIO — Once again, concerns are rising over commerce and the coronavirus a week out from when Texas is scheduled to scale back its COVID-19 mandates.
On March 10, Texas businesses will once again be allowed to operate at 100% capacity, and there will no longer be a statewide mandate on mask-wearing in public spaces. This means Texans cannot be punished for not wearing a face covering in public.
The new rules will start when most Texas schools will be off for Spring Break. San Antonio is no stranger to attracting thousands of tourists.
“It sends an awfully mixed message,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said of the timing of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Tuesday announcement.
Candace Barlow is a server at a restaurant on the River Walk.
“I just feel we are jumping the gun,” she said.
She just recovered from the coronavirus herself, and is worried about the cancellation of the orders starting in the middle of the week during vacation for some.
“It is going to be crazy,” she said. “I just feel the cases will rise.”
Rita Espinoza, chief of epidemiology for Metro Health, said they have been preaching the importance of residents doing everything they can to combat the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a mask. She said there’s concern with Abbott’s new orders.
“With the new mandate, it is setting up the possibility of an increase in cases, and, when that happens, an increase in hospitalizations, then deaths,” she said.
Richard Oliver is a spokesman with Visit San Antonio. He said the local tourism and hospitality industries typically have a $15.2 billion economic impact on the city.
“As an organization, we really encourage people to wear masks,” he said.
However, in terms of Spring Break, he said there are many unknowns regarding how busy the Alamo City will be with tourists with the pandemic still ongoing.
“The hope is we are going to see an uptick (in business),” he said. “The hope is, with the occupancy (limit) relaxed, a lot of our restaurants will see some benefit from that. But you may have travelers who are very wary. Because, hey, no masks; I don’t know if I want to get out in that. But we aren’t sure.”
March is expected to be a busy month for San Antonio. The city is slated to host the UIL state’s basketball tournament, the Valero Texas Open and the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. In that event alone, Oliver said, 35,000 hotels rooms are expected to be filled and $27 million will be injected into the city’s economy.