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Nirenberg: 'It would be a big mistake' for state to repeal COVID-19 measures at this point in time

The mayor was responding to Gov. Abbott's suggestion that an announcement is pending regarding the potential repealing of Texas's pandemic mandates.

SAN ANTONIO — Following Gov. Greg Abbott's Thursday suggestion that an announcement would be coming "pretty soon" regarding the potential lifting of statewide mandates relating to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a trio of San Antonio-area leaders gave a nod of disapproval. 

"It would be a big mistake," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at Thursday evening's coronavirus briefing when specifically asked about the potential repealing of Texas's mask-wearing mandate, which has been in place since last summer. 

"We are gaining control of this virus. We are seeing immunity increase," Nirenberg went on. "But the health professionals are clear – especially with the variants that are transmitting in our community – now is not the time to let down our masks or end the protocols that we’ve had some degree of success with to contain the virus.”

On Friday, Nirenberg formalized his thoughts via a letter to the governor signed by him and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. 

Abbott made his comments at a news conference in Corpus Christi, in a week when barely 5% of the state has been fully vaccinated (as of Tuesday). 

Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez also voiced his disagreement with a potential lifting of Texas protocols, saying Metro Health officials have recommended otherwise. 

"Even with the vaccine, our public health professionals are telling us, 'Continue to wear the mask,'" Rodriguez said. "It would be contrary to our public health guidance, but it would also send the wrong message to our community that somehow we are over the hump."

Junda Woo, the current medical director for Metro Health and a prominent local voice when it comes to the best practices for containing the spread of COVID-19, echoed Rodriguez's sentiment. 

"The CDC guidance, even for people who are fully vaccinated, is to still mask and distance," Woo said. 

That Centers for Disease Control guidance, which can be found here, goes on to say that even vaccinated individuals must still take care to wash their hands, avoid poorly ventilated areas and generally practice the same measures as before they were immunized. 

Austin's mayor also decried Abbott's suggestion of potentially repealing mandates soon, saying, “I am calling upon the governor not to create any ambiguity or uncertainty about the importance of wearing a mask by changing the rules at this time.”

As of Thursday, more than 2.621 million Texans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, while 42,285 have died so far of virus complications. 

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