San Antonio officials filed for a temporary restraining order Monday, asking that a court require three negative coronavirus tests before evacuees brought to the city from coronavirus-stricken areas can be released from a federally mandated quarantine.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the Rivard Report that the request was denied, with the presiding federal judge stating that the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency has determined that two negative tests 24 hours apart, and/or a quarantine for 14 days is sufficient to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“The United States Government is, in effect, washing its own hands further of this quarantine,” U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez wrote in his denial. “This is disappointing. Nonetheless, Plaintiff’s motion for a temporary restraining order is DENIED.”

Nirenberg agreed that the federal government is skirting responsibility for the safety of the San Antonio community. The temporary restraining order request was filed at the same time that the City of San Antonio declared a state of emergency Monday in an attempt to delay the release from quarantine of 122 cruise ship passengers evacuated from Japan to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

A public health emergency was also declared in Bexar County to prevent unincorporated areas and the county’s remaining 26 municipalities from receiving coronavirus evacuees for the next week.

The declarations came after the CDC authorized a woman to be released from quarantine before test results found she still carried traces of the novel coronavirus.

During the 12 hours the woman spent outside of quarantine on Saturday, she checked in to a Holiday Inn near the San Antonio International Airport and then took a hotel shuttle to North Star Mall. She was at the mall from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m, and visited Dillard’s, Talbot’s, and Swarovski before ordering Chinese food at the food court and returning to her hotel at 7:30 p.m.

Nirenberg said that while there have been no cases of community transmission of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, City and County officials “want to make sure that stays the case.”

“In a couple of hours, this person was able to go to a hotel, go out to eat … because once released by the CDC they are free with no guidance in terms of limiting contact with the community,” he said. “We are using an abundance of caution because we want to maintain the low level of risk in the community.”

Nirenberg said that while the local authorities don’t have jurisdiction over the federal government, San Antonio officials will continue to push for what local public health officials determine are the best ways to keep San Antonio safe.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the Rivard Report.