87th LegislatureHealthcareState House19 Democrats Join Republicans to End Texas House’s Mask Requirement

Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress), a medical doctor, led the effort to end the requirement to wear masks in the chamber and committees.
April 30, 2021
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Near the end of the legislative day on Thursday, state representatives voted 99 to 46 to end the requirement to wear a mask in the Texas House chamber and committee rooms by passing House Resolution (HR) 333. Two of the members who proposed doing away with the requirement are medical doctors — Reps. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress) and Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood).

Oliverson discussed declining rates of hospitalizations and new COVID-19 cases, noting that there was a seven-day average of about 7,300 new coronavirus cases as compared to a 22,000 seven-day average when the regular session began.

“I personally believe, as do many medical experts, that this is largely resulting from the fact that we’ve been highly successful in Texas as far as our effort in vaccinations and getting people immunized against the virus,” Oliverson said. “As of April 18, Texas had over 10 million vaccinated residents, with 7.3 million being fully vaccinated.”

When Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) asked Oliverson about U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, he noted that the CDC also recommends shaving or trimming one’s beard or wearing a mask fitter. The House has never required members to alter their beards or wear mask fitters, he contended, so it is faulty to suggest that a CDC recommendation must necessarily translate to a House requirement.

In the wake of Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision in March to end the statewide mask requirement, Democrats made anguished predictions of increased hospitalizations and mortality related to COVID-19. Hospitalizations continued to go down in the weeks that followed.

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No one on the floor spoke against HR 333. The Texas House Administration Committee passed the resolution on Tuesday.

The Democrats who joined Republicans to vote for ending the requirement are Reps. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), Elizabeth Campos (D-San Antonio), Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Phillip Cortez (D-San Antonio), Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas), Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville), Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston), Art Fierro (D-El Paso), Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio), Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), Tracy King (D-Batesville), Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio), Eddie Morales Jr. (D-Eagle Pass), Claudia Ordaz Perez (D-El Paso), Mary Ann Perez (D-Houston), Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo), Toni Rose (D-Dallas), and Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston).

Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) is the only Republican who voted to keep the mask requirement in place. His office declined a request for comment.

The House also chose on Friday by a vote of 100 to 26 to allow members of the media back on the floor of the chamber.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan. He has coached high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.