Week 13 in Review: San Antonio Reopens, But Most Stay Home

The scarcity of shoppers when malls first reopened their doors meant store managers did not have to worry about the 25 percent capacity rule. A scattering of diners ventured out to the few open restaurant patios on the River Walk, content to sip margaritas as they took in the eerie emptiness of the normally bustling Paseo del Rio.

That was early in the week. By week’s end, patio tables at restaurants filled up, takeout lines grew longer, and more store patrons suggested shoppers wanted a change of venue from home shelter. Restaurants began taking reservations for Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday. Highway traffic picked up, and radio news reports of traffic accidents resumed.

Hair, nail, and tanning salons, barbershops, even swimming pools were among the many nonessential businesses given the go-ahead to reopen Friday by Gov. Greg Abbott. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, trademark bandana mask lowered, posed in a barber’s chair while getting a haircut.

Uncertainty Is the Only Certainty

The COVID-19 Economic Transition Team presented an economic reopening report to a joint session of San Antonio City Council and Bexar County Commissioners Court on Tuesday. The presentation followed the earlier release of a report by the COVID-19 Health Transition Team.

The economic transition panel, composed of local business leaders and co-chaired by Kevin Voelkel, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas, and Julissa Carielo, president of Tejas Premier Building Contractors, asks companies to take the Greater. SAfer. Together. pledge and agree to seven practices, including maintaining 6 feet of distance and using hand sanitizer.

Carielo said one of the economic transition team’s tasks was to “create a marketing and PR plan that will restore consumer and visitor confidence.”

Marketing campaigns may prove no match for the pandemic or virus-wary consumers. National and local polls uniformly show solid majorities of adults are not yet comfortable returning to stores, restaurants, and other places where people congregate.

Periodic shortages continue to underscore the public mood and the disruption of national supply chains. For weeks, paper products, notably toilet paper, disappeared as quickly as stockers could place them on store shelves. Now grocers and butchers are having to place limits on meat purchases to stem panic buying.

Coronavirus cases are likely to increase as people move about more freely, epidemiologists warn. Abbott acknowledged as much in a May 3 phone call with Texas legislators and Congress members, according to leaked audio obtained by Quorum Report.

“Listen, the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening – whether you want to call it a reopening of businesses or of just a reopening of society – in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase and spread,” Abbott said in the call.

In their own daily briefings to the media and public, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff remain much more cautious in their response to the statewide opening, even as they acknowledge the governor’s authority supersedes their own in managing the opening of public life and the economy.

Locally, elected leaders and public health experts are looking for a sustained decline in the number of new coronavirus cases for a period of 14 days or more. That has not yet happened, and last week saw a surge in cases principally attributed to the coronavirus outbreak in the Bexar County Adult Detention Center, where more than 3,000 prisoners are housed and 700 detention officers work.

Bexar County Detention Deputy Timothy de la Fuente died last week after contracting this virus and was given an honor procession by local law enforcement agencies. One inmate, Clifford Childs, also died.

About 20 percent of all coronavirus cases in Bexar County can be traced to the jail.

The Numbers Can Have a Numbing Effect

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