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What would it take for Bexar County to implement its own coronavirus orders?

Our region would have to meet a certain threshold of coronavirus hospitalizations for local leaders to announce new orders. The state doesn't think that will happen.

SAN ANTONIO — For the first time since issuing his initial statewide mandates relating to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic last summer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday announced he was repealing the majority of those orders—including allowing businesses to fully reopen and no longer requiring masks to be worn in public spaces. 

Abbott cited increased recoveries, ongoing vaccination efforts and reduced hospitalizations as the reason for the move. 

County leaders, however, can still implement local pandemic-related orders, should their region reach a certain hospitalizations threshold. Abbott said that if any of Texas's 22 trauma service regions sees seven straight days of coronavirus-related hospitalizations taking up at least 15% of that particular regions total hospital beds, a county judge in that region can announce "COVID mitigation strategies." 

Bexar County belongs to Southwest Texas RAC, along with Val Verde, Edwards, Kinney, Maverick, Real, Gillespie, Kerr, Kendall, Comal, Guadalupe, Gonzales, Wilson, Karnes, Atascosa, Frio, Dimmit, Zavala, Uvalde, Medina and Bandera counties. As of Monday, coronavirus hospitalizations make up 8.3% of Southwest Texas RAC's staffed hospital bed capacity, which is 6,569.

Should that number reach 15% and remain there a full week, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff would be able to implement new strategies to contain the spread. However, the governor said county leaders would be barred from jailing Texans for not following coronavirus orders, nor would they be able to impose penalties for not wearing a face mask. 

Additionally, Abbott said that businesses' operating capacities may be reduced in certain counties if the threshold is met, but "all entities must be allowed to operate at at least a 50% capacity."

The governor said Tuesday he was confident such measures won't have to be implemented once again. 

"We believe there will not be the threshold met at hospitalizations for county judges to even consider implementing those strategies because Texas will continue working collaboratively with all counties to speed the vaccination process," Abbott said. 

At least 3.694 million Texans have been vaccinated with at least one coronavirus dose, while 1.984 million are fully immunized against COVID-19, per the latest data from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. 

At Tuesday evening's coronavirus response briefing, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff decried Abbott's announcement, saying, "this is not a time to let our guards down."