San Marcos could be the next city to challenge state COVID-19 restrictions

Hays

SAN MARCOS (KXAN) — San Marcos could be the next Texas city to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott’s order on COVID-19 restrictions.

The state sued both Austin and El Paso when city leaders tried to strengthen local restrictions. However, some San Marcos City Council members say it would be worth the legal challenge.

On Tuesday, San Marcos Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp briefed council members that in Hays County, 707 cases came in over the holiday weekend, and eight people died.

“As a county, we are seeing more COVID cases now than we have since the pandemic started,” Stapp told KXAN. “We are definitely in our tallest spike, if you will, and the city of San Marcos is right there with the county.”

Council member Maxfield Baker expressed concerns Tuesday that Texas State University students returning to campus this week may only make case numbers worse.

“It’s a component of our community risk, you know, a lot of the college students, they are the servers or the cooks in the restaurants, and the people working at the small businesses,” Stapp said.

In Tuesday’s meeting, Baker suggested a city ordinance that would enact more COVID-19 restrictions in San Marcos than the state currently allows.

“We have to do what we have to do to protect our citizens, even though we might be going against the governor,” said Council Member Saul Gonzales.

Not all of council agreed.

“I can’t support it knowing we’re just going to turn around and get sued,” said Council Member Mark Gleason.

“I do not see me signing something that I know is going to cause a lawsuit,” said San Marcos Mayor Jane Hughson, adding, “I don’t know how we would enforce this. Things are not really enforceable now.”

The mayor and Council Member Shane Scott contended the city should rely on the vaccine lowering case numbers. However, Baker argued that wouldn’t be a quick solution.

“The people that are going to get the vaccine, it’s a privilege to be on that list. I’m nowhere near that list. None of the people that are working in restaurants are on that list,” Baker said. “So we’re talking about people, our essential workers, remind everyone, that aren’t on that list any time soon, and we’re just going to let them die.”

Scott added he wouldn’t back stricter restrictions because of the potential financial impact.

“Our small businesses, especially, have been so destroyed and distraught and out of business in so many different ways,” Scott said. “The ones that are surviving, I wouldn’t want to throw any extra burdens on them.”

Baker maintained the city should support those businesses through its Community Development Block Grant funds, not keeping them at the same capacity at which they’re currently operating.

Referring to customers at risk, Baker quipped, “You know, when they’re less dead, they can shop at our businesses.”

Should the city choose to move forward, council members voted to first send a letter to Abbott, pleading with him to help them reduce local spread. City council members said they would also ask neighboring cities in Hays County, like Buda and Kyle to join in their request.

The council plans to discuss the issue further in its Feb. 2 meeting.

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