Statewide NewsLocal Mask Mandates Temporarily Halted After Supreme Court Sides with Abbott

The court will fully consider the case later this week, but for now the local mandates are prohibited until a final verdict is delivered.
and August 15, 2021
In a momentary win for Governor Greg Abbott, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a temporary stay on local mask mandates on Sunday night. With school set to begin across the state on Monday, many localities ranging from cities to school districts had set a mandatory mask policy.

The court’s decisions come on two cases, one from Bexar County and another from Dallas County, which challenged Abbott’s authority to preclude them from issuing such mandates.

“The ban doesn’t prohibit using masks. Anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, including in schools,” Abbott tweeted after the news broke.

The Office of the Attorney General added, “Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all ISDs and Local officials that the Governor’s order stands.”

On Wednesday, a lower court sided with the cities, allowing their mandates to be implemented pending appeal to the state’s highest court.

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Abbott’s executive order GA-38 is the source of conflict which prohibited any such mask mandates — an about-face on the policy compared with a year ago.

Bexar County and San Antonio officials argued that the order violated the Texas Disaster Act — the very provision from which Abbott and local officials have pulled their authority to issue emergency directives throughout the pandemic.

The localities argue masks are a necessary safety measure for schools and other public areas.

Dallas’ lawsuit stems from Republican Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch’s  against county Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat, over his mask requirement for commissioners court meetings. In response, Jenkins successfully asked a state district judge to block portions of Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order that prohibited the implementation of local mask mandates.

“I knew this was going to be the result when I started down this path on August 3. Unfortunately, Judge Clay Jenkins knew it as well,” Koch told The Texan after the state’s high court made the decision.

“I’m hopeful he will abandon these worthless fights and start working on solutions with Governor Abbott.”

Koch had foreshadowed the momentum of his lawsuit after Attorney General Ken Paxton backed his effort to end Jenkins’ commissioners court mask mandate, saying it had “a whole lot more firepower.”

Since that legal scuffle and his initial victory, Jenkins issued a much more sweeping mask mandate that included virtually all businesses and government buildings.

On social media, Jenkins seemed to dismiss the latest decision as a temporary setback.

“[The Texas] Supreme Court narrowly ruled, staying only the [temporary restraining order] against Gov. Abbott but allowing the temporary injunction hearing to go forward,” he tweeted. “We won’t stop working with parents, doctors, schools, business [and] others to protect you and intend to win that hearing.”

The conflicts come as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have risen compared with recent months. But fatalities, a measure of case severity, still remain vastly lower than the high points of January and July 2020.

Since the pandemic’s two peaks, Abbott has tried to pare back the government dictates — from both him and local officials — that have become the rule since March of 2020.

Until the court issues its final verdict, students will not be required to wear masks when they return to classes next week.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.

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