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San Antonio mayor declares 'public health emergency' over coronavirus concerns

The declaration allows the city to bar any previously quarantined person from entering the city of San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Monday declared a "local state of disaster and a public health emergency" over concerns about the potential spread of coronavirus.

The 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."

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."

The emergency declaration comes after news over the weekend that a patient who had been in quarantine at JBSA-Lackland tested positive after her release. She had been in the public for about 12 hours, visiting North Star Mall and a hotel near the San Antonio International Airport.

Health officials said she posed a low risk to the public based on time spent with people in public and distance from those people. 

However, Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff called the release "unacceptable" and are demanding a third test to be conducted on all people in quarantine before they are released. The declaration also says that no previously quarantined person shall be released into the public until further notice.

"We simply cannot have a screw-up like this from our federal partners," Nirenberg said at a news conference Monday morning. "As a result of this, I strongly believe that all the individuals who were scheduled to be released from the 14-day quarantine today should be retested and kept in quarantine until the results confirm that they are negative for the coronavirus."

So far, there have been 11 people who tested positive for coronavirus from quarantine in San Antonio. Those include nine passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, one from the first group of evacuees from China and a patient flown to San Antonio from quarantine in California.

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