To battle COVID-19, San Antonio caps gatherings at 10, Texas closes bars

As San Antonio stepped up its battle against COVID-19 by banning gatherings of more than 10 people in city parks or plazas, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said weekend #BlackLivesMatter protesters would be "kindly asked to think about the pandemic we're in, and disperse."

The remarks by Nirenberg, who has repeatedly encouraged #BlackLivesMatters protestors to demonstrate and speak out, came during the evening briefing on the virus which threatens to overwhelm the city's hospital capacity.

The briefing on June 26 capped a tumultuous day that began with a surprise announcement from Texas Governor Greg Abbott closing bars and limiting restaurant capacity to prevent further spread of the virus and the surprise resignation of the director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

In her resignation letter, Metro Health Director Dawn Emerick, a White woman, said it is "time for the City of San Antonio to appoint a person of color to lead one of the largest public health departments in the country." (Read more in this article by Texas Public Radio.) Emerick's predecessor in the job, Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger, also a White woman, was named Acting Director of Metro Health in the evening.

During the briefing, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff,  publicly thanked Abbott "for stepping up and making some hard decisions" to roll back reopening moves that were widely criticized as for being too fast.

Since Abbott ordered businesses to reopen in phases in May, COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in Texas' urban areas.

COVID-19 hospitalizations June 26 2020 Bexar County

On June 26, COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide set a record for the 15th day. In Bexar county and San Antonio, COVID-19 hospitalizations have roughly doubled every seven days since early June, reaching 699, an increase of 732%. At the current pace, hospitals in Bexar County are projected to run out of space within weeks.

Nirenberg and Wolff again urged residents to wear masks, maintain social distance, wash hands and stay at home, and vowed that they would be stepping up enforcement of rules requiring people and employees to wear masks inside businesses.

"If we don't want to go all way back to staying at home, we've got to do this now," Nirenberg said.

Click here to see visualizations of the latest COVID-19 data for Bexar County and for Texas.