A sign at the entrance to Plaza De Armas informs employees about COVID-19 symptoms and temperature checks. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Local officials revised an earlier mandate Wednesday so that it no longer requires commercial entities to perform health screenings and take a customer’s temperature upon entering a place of business.

The executive order Judge Nelson Wolff had announced would start on Thursday was revised to recommend, rather than require, health screenings but does require businesses to post on the door a list of COVID-19 symptoms. The sign, available for download, tells customers to watch for symptoms, which can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

For some businesses, the original requirement to conduct temperature checks and individual health screenings was welcomed. For others, it wasn’t considered practical.

On June 17, Wolff issued an executive order that mandates face coverings for the general public and directs all commercial entities to require employees and customers to wear them in situations where social distancing is not feasible.

That mandate remains in place and failure to implement the policy could result in a fine up to $1,000. Mayor Ron Nirenberg instituted a similar order for the City of San Antonio.

At Tuesday’s COVID-19 press briefing, Wolff said he had decided to enact additional safeguards.

“This is an extraordinary, dangerous time,” he said. “Our hospital capacity could run out within the next week or two if we keep growing like this so we’re adding a couple of more safeguards to it.”

He said all commercial entities would be required to screen visitors with a set of health questions to determine if they have the symptoms of COVID-19 and take their temperature. The order was set to take effect Thursday at noon.

“However, we had a number of businesses and others talk to us about what that requirement would do, and the practicability of it, that it was difficult to comply with in the short term,” Nirenberg said at Wednesday’s briefing. “So we’ve made some changes to the requirements, but not to the objective.”

He said businesses should prominently display signage showing the symptoms of COVID-19 as well as require customers and employees to wear face coverings.

“We are not requiring that businesses conduct temperature checks at the door of all customer and employees, but we are encouraging them to do so strongly,” he said. “We hope with this new approach we can leverage the ongoing efforts of the business community to help us in an effort to stem the tide of the coronavirus.”

Lee Willis, general manager of North Park Lexus, said all dealerships in the Kahlig Auto Group were already doing temperature checks of employees and had been considering doing the same with customers as well.

“We were right on the fence about it,” he said. “And so this just makes it easier for us to pull the trigger, to put the process in place.”

The Lexus dealership has about 150 to 200 people visiting the service department daily, he said, and many more car shoppers. “We just had our best June we’ve ever had [in new car sales],” Willis said, adding that no car dealership in San Antonio has been identified as a coronavirus hot spot during the crisis so far.

“We’re really fortunate that [the mayor and judge] did not shut us down back in the beginning of April,” Willis said. “Because I think it gave us time to develop these processes, to keep everybody safe.”

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At the boutique workout studio Orangetheory Fitness, members have their temperature checked and apply hand sanitizer upon entering, per corporate protocols, said a worker who answered the phone at the Quarry Village site. They are also required to wear masks while in the studio. A similar protocol is being followed at the far Northside furniture store, Living Spaces.

But for major retail outlets and grocers like H-E-B, the revised mandate means they won’t need to screen each of the hundreds of shoppers that visit daily.

A spokeswoman said, per the order, signage explaining COVID-19 symptoms will be posted at the front door of all H-E-B stores.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is a journalist and writer in San Antonio, and a business reporter for The Rivard Report.