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As COVID-19 Rebounds, Bexar County's Nelson Wolff Tells Gov. Abbott to Let Cities Require Masks


County Judge Nelson Wolff speaks during a recent coronavirus press briefing. - SCREEN CAPTURE / KSAT 12
  • Screen Capture / KSAT 12
  • County Judge Nelson Wolff speaks during a recent coronavirus press briefing.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff fired off a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott saying he wants the governor to reverse an order blocking municipalities such as Bexar and San Antonio from fining people for not wearing masks.

The letter comes as Metro Health officials warn that San Antonio is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases and as the state this week reported three days of record hospitalizations due to the virus.

"When you began to lift the restrictions throughout Texas starting on May 1, I was supportive," Wolff wrote. "However, I did not agree with your decision to limit the authority of local jurisdictions to impose a penalty on individuals who failed to wear a face covering in instances where proper social distancing could not be maintained."

Abbott's office was unavailable for immediate comment about the letter.

Wolff, a Democrat, and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, an independent, have been critical of Republican state leadership's efforts to stop municipalities from setting their own public health rules as the economy reopened.

In early May, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warned San Antonio, Austin and Dallas to roll back “unlawful” local orders that call for stricter coronavirus restrictions than the state's. Paxton, a Republican, suggested he'd sue to make sure that happens.

In his letter, Wolff cautioned the governor that tying municipalities' hands will only slow efforts to getting the economy back on track.

"If we are going to be successful in the reopening of our economy, we need to put in place some mandatory health requirements," Wolff wrote. "The most important of these is the requirement to wear a face covering within six feet of another person."

He added: "If this trend continues, and I believe it will, we will see an increase in both the burden upon our community and the need for additional resources to combat the COVID-19 crisis. I am asking you to issue a new executive order which allows each local jurisdiction and its leaders to make a determination as to whether mandatory face coverings are appropriate for their community."

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