In response to Governor Abbbott’s executive order lifting the mask mandate and all capacity restrictions, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued their own new orders on the COVID pandemic on March 9th, the day before the governor’s executive order was to go into effect.
Judge Wolff issued his order first, and Mayor Nirenberg followed with his later the same day. The mayor’s adopted not only Judge Wolff’s order and Governor Abbott’s executive order, but also adopted a 2020 Centers for Disease Control order halting residential evictions and a February 1, 2012 order by the CDC requiring face masks on “public conveyances” and at “transportation hubs.”
For employers, the key components of the judge’s order and the mayor’s order were the same. Both require commercial entities that provide goods or services directly to the public must conspicuously post a health and safety policy. In doing so, the entity may consider such measures as face masks, distancing, capacity limits, and screening, but are not required to adopt any specific measure.
Importantly, each order states that if an individual refuses to comply with an entity’s health and safety policy, the entity may call on “legally authorized individuals” (i.e., law enforcement?) to remove such an individual from the entity’s premises in accordance with trespassing laws.
Even before the two orders were entered, the San Antonio Express-News reported that Bexar County DA Joe Gonzalez had advised businesses that they can still ask a customer to wear a mask, and, if they don’t, the business can call the authorities and ask them to give the customer a notice to depart. The DA stated that criminal trespass is a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. Lastly, the newspaper reported that he said, “Let the professionals do it. Do not take the law into your own hands.”