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As hospitalizations rise, San Antonio officials urge everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces


Dr. Junda Woo, medical director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, speaks during Wednesday's press conference. - SCREEN CAPTURE / TVSA
  • Screen Capture / TVSA
  • Dr. Junda Woo, medical director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, speaks during Wednesday's press conference.
With local COVID-19 hospitalizations rising sharply, San Antonio and Bexar County officials issued guidelines urging everyone over the age of 2, even those fully vaccinated, to wear a mask in indoor public settings.

During a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff also called on students, teachers and staff wear masks while in schools.

What's more, local health officials repeatedly urged the 37% of San Antonio residents who are either unvaccinated or have only received one shot to become fully inoculated against the coronavirus.

"We're all in this together, and wearing a mask is a step we can all take to help each other and our community," Nirenberg said.

The new guidelines come a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended everyone, including fully vaccinated people, wear masks indoors in areas with high COVID-19 transmission rates. (Here's a map showing those areas, which include San Antonio.)

The CDC updated its mask guidance because the highly transmissible delta variant has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. While vaccinations are effective against the variant, hospitalizations are spiking across the country as unvaccinated people contract the virus.

As of Wednesday, 629 people were being treated for COVID-19 in San Antonio hospitals, a 400% increase from the 125 hospitalized on June 16. Roughly 600 of those now under hospital care are unvaccinated, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.

"They're putting themselves in great jeopardy, they're putting everyone else in great jeopardy," he added. "Those of us who have had both of our shots, yes, we can catch COVID, and yes, we can pass it on, but the odds are tremendously against it that we'd end up in the hospital."

Wolff and Nirenberg said they're sending a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott asking for clarification whether his recent executive orders would prevent the city and county from making vaccines mandatory for their workers. Earlier this week, both local officials said they may require municipal employees to get vaccinated or submit to frequent testing.

The Republican governor has repeatedly shot down local officials' efforts to expand COVID-prevention measures that go beyond those he's mandated. During a news conference last week, Abbott said he plans no new mask order, adding Texas is “past the time of government mandates.”

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