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San Antonio leaders recommend indoor mask wearing in updated health advisory after CDC changes course

Mayor Ron Nirenberg also named a few requests for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio city leaders recommended mask-wearing for fully vaccinated individuals after updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Based on emerging evidence on transmissibility of the Delta Variant, Metro Health recommends that fully vaccinated persons ages 2 and up wear masks in public indoor settings due to substantial community COVID-19 transmission in Bexar County," a release stated.

The CDC changed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the Delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.

"While those who are vaccinated are far less likely to be hospitalized or to suffer a severe illness by wearing masks, vaccinated people can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and decrease the virus's opportunities to mutate into other, more dangerous variants such as the Delta variant," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a press conference on Wednesday.

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Nirenberg also named a few requests for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

"Judge Wolf and I will be sending a letter to Gov. Abbott asking him to support our request for additional assistance to help our hospitals deal with the rise in COVID cases. We're also requesting that he consider amending his order to allow governmental employers to require facemasks to prevent the continued spread by the highly-transmissible Delta variant and any other potential variant," Nirenberg said. "We're also asking to consider allowing school officials to enact mask mandates. As you know, students younger than 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, so it's on all of us to protect those young people in our community. The unvaccinated population of students deserves that, deserves the protection afforded by wearing masks, and for us to exhibit our compassion towards the young people in our community."

In a recent tweet, Abbott said that "the time for government mask mandates is over—now is the time for personal responsibility."  Texas reported 12,897 new cases on Wednesday, and the CDC community spread map shows that most of Texas has a high level of community transmission.

Here in San Antonio, the city held a press conference on Friday. That day, city leaders said there were 418 people with COVID-19 at San Antonio hospitals, 121 patients were in the intensive care unit and 50 of those people were on ventilators. 

More than 95% of these patients are unvaccinated, city leaders said Friday.

Leaders stressed getting the vaccine not just for yourself, but for others, using the phrase San Antonians have heard throughout the pandemic -- "Do it for SA." 

"The increases in cases over the last few weeks has been precipitous," San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

With the availability of vaccines throughout the community, Nirenberg says people are depending on others to do the "right thing" and get vaccinated,  especially those who are not of age to get vaccinated.

Also in San Antonio, University Health said Tuesday that it will reinstate visitor restrictions starting Wednesday, a sign that the coronavirus continues to be a major threat in Bexar County and beyond. 

RELATED: University Health reinstates coronavirus visitation restrictions as infection rates rise

Citing hospitalizations "climbing at an alarming rate," UH officials said in a press release that visits will be limited to those "deemed necessary to the patient's care," including parents of NICU infants; individuals providing support for patients with disabilities; support for critically ill patients; and support for women giving birth. 

UH is also limiting visitors to those older than 13, and while it encourages anyone coming to its hospitals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they haven't yet, officials say masks are a must for everyone.

In other developments, President Joe Biden said his administration was considering requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated. His comments came a day after the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require its health care workers receive the vaccine.

The country is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

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