SAN ANTONIO — Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has issued a declaration of public health emergency Monday as officials release more details of a patient who tested positive for coronavirus after making contact with people in San Antonio.
"We've had our problems with the CDC, and how they've handled things, and we're not very appreciative of it, about putting our people at risk," said Wolff.
An individual was released from quarantine at a local healthcare facility on Saturday, had contact with others, and returned to isolation after a pending lab test came back positive for coronavirus.
"We're doing this out of a sense of caution. We e don't know a lot about this disease," said Wolff.
In his issuance, Wolff declared "that ingress into and travel throughout Bexar County and the remaining 26 municipalities from Lackland by those persons that have been quarantined in the facility is not permitted."
"They need to have someone pick them up and take them out just as they brought them here, and not expose our population to any potential problem," said Wolff.
The public health emergency went into effect immediately following the declaration and will continue for up to seven days unless continued or renewed by the Bexar County Commissioners Court.
Earlier Monday, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg declared a "local state of disaster and a public health emergency" over concerns about the potential spread of coronavirus.
"Regardless of what the federal and state governments do, at the local level, we're going to do everything within our power to protect the public," said Nirenberg.
Nirenberg's declaration activates the city's emergency management plan and authorizes the city to "commandeer or use any private property, temporarily acquire, by lease or other means, sites required for temporary housing units or emergency shelters for evacuees, subject to compensation requirements."
"Our guidance from the medical community and what we've seen from medical professionals throughout the world, really is that we need to ensure that additional testing is done and that the quarantine period may need to last longer," said Nirenberg. "These are Americans. We've been treating them and dealing with the situation in an extraordinary way, a compassionate way, and we also are going to deal with it in a safe way, because that's our obligation to the public."
It also allows the city to "take any actions necessary to promote health and suppress disease, including quarantine, examining and regulating hospitals, (and) regulating ingress and egress from the city."
The declaration concludes by saying that "no previously quarantined person shall be permitted to enter the City of San Antonio until further notice."
On February 18, Wolff sent a letter to Congressman Chip Roy, asking that people quarantined for the coronavirus be tested at JBSA-Lackland rather than area hospitals. The judge later joined Mayor Nirenberg in issuing a joint letter pushing to keep the disease from going around San Antonio. The city leaders want to make sure evacuees stay under quarantine at JBSA-Lackland until it's confirmed they have the coronavirus.
"We have asked over and over not to transport these people into the city of San Antonio. They're not citizens of San Antonio, they're not citizens of Bexar County. We've asked them not to do that. They have totally ignored that," said Wolff.
Both Wolff and Nirenberg said that although the risk still remains low for the public, the emergency declarations are about being prepared.
"We're doing that with the guidance of our medical community so that people don't have to be concerned about going into the public. So people don't have to be concerned about visiting our city. We want to make sure that the risk of exposure remains low. And so we're going to utilize all of our authority to do that," said Nirenberg.
Read the full declaration from Judge Wolff below:
March 2, 2020
DECLARATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY
WHEREAS, as Bexar County Judge, I recently expressed my concerns regarding evacuees, inappropriate accommodations, and the risk of exposure during transport and the need for additional monitoring as well as the need for extended quarantine periods;
WHEREAS, on February 18th, I issued a letter to representatives of the federal government expressing my concerns and on February 24th, joined the Mayor of San Antonio in issuing a joint letter expressing the same and asked that no individual testing positive while at Lackland be transported into the Bexar County community. To date, no response or even an acknowledgement of those concerns has been received and an individual was transported into the community who had tested positive; and
WHEREAS, of even date of this declaration of a local state of disaster on behalf of Bexar County, the Mayor of the City of San Antonio has issued a Declaration of Public Health Emergency; and
WHEREAS, in an abundance of caution, and to protect the unincorporated areas of Bexar County and the remaining 26 municipalities contained within Bexar County, I, Nelson W. Wolff am issuing this declaration of public health emergency pursuant to the authority granted to me under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975; and
WHEREAS, Bexar County will continue to work collaboratively with the Mayor of the City of San Antonio, Bexar County employees as well as the local health authority to ensure that all appropriate measures are undertaken to limit the spread of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, to date, ten (10) persons evacuated to Lackland have tested positive for the virus and that number is likely to increase, as testing continues; and
WHEREAS, on Saturday, February 29, 2020, one of the persons in Cohort 1 who had tested positive for COVID-19 and subsequently tested negative on two tests was released from quarantine. However, this person tested positive for the virus on a third test, with results coming in after release and may have potentially exposed the public to the virus; and
WHEREAS, the person has been returned to quarantine at Lackland while the CDC and local health authorities are taking steps to ensure the community is kept safe and the exposure risk is minimized; and
WHEREAS, it is necessary to the preserve and protect the public health of the residents of Bexar County that those quarantined persons at Lackland remain within the confines of those safe, secure facilities during the quarantine period following their exposure to the virus; and
WHEREAS, following the release of the person from Cohort 1 and positive test after that release, the imminent movement of those quarantined at Lackland by the CDC to other facilities within the Bexar County, including transport to the airports within Bexar County for travel to other secure locations, increases the risks to the residents of Bexar County, creates a public health threat, and requires the County to mitigate the risk of disease and manage the concerns of residents in and around Bexar County; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, the County Judge may declare a local state of disaster in and for the County, and may exercise the powers granted therein on an appropriate local scale; and
WHEREAS, a declaration of local disaster and public health emergency includes the ability to reduce the possibility of exposure to disease, control the risk, promote health, compel persons to undergo additional health measures that prevent or control the spread of disease, including isolation, surveillance, quarantine, or placement of persons under public health observation, including the provision of temporary housing or emergency shelters for persons misplaced or evacuated and request assistance from the governor of state resources; and
WHEREAS, by this declaration, I declare all rules and regulations that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to this threat suspended for the duration of the incident; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to the authority granted to the County Judge under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, I authorize the use of all available resources of state government and political subdivisions to assist in the County’s response to this situation; and
WHEREAS, I, Nelson W. Wolff, the County Judge and presiding officer of Bexar County, have determined that in order to remain consistent with the Declaration of Public Health Emergency issued by the City of San Antonio, extraordinary and immediate measures must be taken to respond quickly, prevent and alleviate the suffering of people exposed to and those infected with the virus, as well as those that could potentially be infected or impacted by COVID-19 throughout Bexar County and within the remaining 26 municipal jurisdictions in Bexar County;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT DECLARED BY THE COUNTY JUDGE OF THE COUNTY OF BEXAR:
- That a local state of disaster and public health emergency is hereby declared throughout Bexar County pursuant to §418.108(a) of the Texas Government Code.
- Pursuant to §418.108(b) of the Government Code, the state of disaster and public health emergency shall continue for a period of not more than seven days from the date of this declaration unless continued or renewed by the Bexar County Commissioners Court.
- Pursuant to §418.108(c) of the Government Code, this declaration of a local state of disaster and public health emergency shall be given prompt and general publicity and shall be filed promptly with the County Clerk.
- Pursuant to §418.108(d) of the Texas Government Code, this declaration of a local state of disaster and public health emergency activates Bexar County’s emergency management plan.
- Pursuant to the authority granted under the laws of the State of Texas, this declaration authorizes Bexar County to take any actions necessary to promote health and suppress disease, including quarantine, examining and regulating hospitals, and regulating ingress and egress into or throughout Bexar County.
- Pursuant to the statutory authority vested in me as the presiding officer of the County of Bexar, I declare that ingress into and travel throughout Bexar County and the remaining 26 municipalities from Lackland by those persons that have been quarantined in the facility is not permitted. No previously quarantined person shall be permitted to enter Bexar County, the City of San Antonio, or any of the other 26 municipalities throughout Bexar County until further notice.
This declaration shall take effect immediately from and after its issuance.
DECLARED this 2nd day of March, 2020.