The Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked two counties from enforcing mask mandates on Sunday after the counties previously received permission from lower courts to defy an order by Governor Greg Abbott that banned such mandates.
The 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio on Friday upheld a lower court ruling that allowed Bexar County to mandate mask-wearing in public schools, according to the Texas Tribune. The 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas also upheld an order from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins that required masks in public schools, universities and businesses.
That same day, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he had appealed the lower court rulings to the state Supreme Court. His office argued that the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 grants the governor the authority to act as the “commander in chief” of the state’s response to a disaster.
Meanwhile, cities and counties that have fought against Abbott’s ban on mask mandates have argued that his orders should not supersede local orders.
“Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all ISDs and Local officials that the Governor’s order stands,” Paxton said of the ruling.
Abbott celebrated the ruling, noting in a tweet that the ban “doesn’t prohibit using masks. Anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, including in schools.”
However, the city of San Antonio said the ruling “has little practical effect” as a lower court’s ruling granting the city temporary permission to issue a mask mandate will expire tomorrow and the city still plans to make its case before a Bexar County district court.
“The City of San Antonio and Bexar County’s response to the Texas Supreme Court continues to emphasize that the Governor cannot use his emergency powers to suspend laws that provide local entities the needed flexibility to act in an emergency,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said.
The superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District said on Sunday after the ruling that the district will still require masks on the first day of school on Monday. On August 24 Dallas County is set to go before a lower court that gave it permission to implement its mask mandate.
Austin City Council member Greg Casar said Sunday after the court issued its ruling that a mask mandate will still be enforced for Austin ISD.
“This is about keeping our kids in school and out of the hospital,” Casar said.
Mask orders and mandatory vaccines have been given renewed consideration as concern grows over the highly contagious delta variant. The new variant is spreading rapidly in areas with low vaccination rates.
After the CDC renewed calls for students to wear masks in schools, the Republican governors of Texas and Florida both signed orders prohibiting mask mandates in public schools.
While children under the age of twelve are not currently eligible to be vaccinated, unvaccinated children have a lower risk of death or serious outcome from COVID-19 than vaccinated people in their 30s do.
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