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County judge orders San Antonio businesses to create safety plan, including requiring face masks

This comes after Gov. Greg Abbott maintained his position Tuesday that cities cannot impose penalties for not wearing a mask.

SAN ANTONIO — County Judge Nelson Wolff said Wednesday that businesses in San Antonio and the greater Bexar County area must require that people wear masks when they are within six feet of each other.

It is part of an executive order Wolff is issuing that requires businesses to come up with a safely plan and guidelines that include requiring customers and staff to wear a mask. Wolff said the order is the result of a partnership with Mayor Ron Nirenberg, and comes in the wake of drastic spikes in COVID-19 positivity rates in the metro.

The order also requires all commercial entities that provide goods and services to have a health and safety policy posted within the next five days. 

Businesses could be fined $1,000 per violation, and up to $5,000, if they do not comply. 

Mayor Nirenberg amended the city's emergency order on coronavirus safety based on Wolff's executive order. He says it is consistent with Governor Greg Abbott's order that prevents civil or criminal penalties for individuals who do not wear face coverings.

This comes after Gov. Abbott maintained his position Tuesday that cities cannot impose penalties for not wearing a mask. Meanwhile, on the same day, Texas and San Antonio saw new highs for new coronavirus cases. Later in the day, the governor's office gave a symbolic nod of approval, saying the order "is not inconsistent" with state mandates. 

"Our actions we are taking today may be pushing the legal bounds, but our attorneys believe we can defend this in court," Wolff said during a press conference.

Wolff also he was working with the governor's office to stay within the guidelines of the state.

Shortly after the order was announced, H-E-B said it would return to requiring customers to wear masks in its stores, effective Monday. 

RELATED: Coronavirus Tracker: 'Exponential surge' in cases in San Antonio, mayor says

RELATED: Mayors of nine Texas cities call on Gov. Abbott to allow them to enforce mask orders

RELATED: Gov. Abbott agrees with Wolff on value of wearing a mask, but doesn't think government should be able to mandate it

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