Despite Texas high court ruling, some mask mandates remain

August 16, 2021 - 05:20 PM

HOUSTON (AP) — Some Texas cities, counties and school districts remained defiant Monday and kept in place mandates requiring students and others to wear facial coverings despite rulings a day earlier by the Texas Supreme Court halting mask mandates in two of the state’s largest counties.

But other school districts and communities rescinded their mask mandates in the wake of Sunday’s court ruling, creating confusion and frustration for some Texas parents and their children, who were returning to in person classes this week.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a letter Monday “the Supreme Court has spoken” and any local orders that would try “to enjoin the Governor’s authority may not be enforced while the Court considers the underlying merits of these cases.”

Students and parents gather outside the Governor's Mansion to urge Gov. Greg Abbott to drop his opposition to public school mask mandates, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The Texas Supreme Court has blocked mask mandates ordered by two of the nation’s largest counties that defied Republican Gov. Greg Abbott as COVID-19 cases surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Students and parents gather outside the Governor's Mansion to urge Gov. Greg Abbott to drop his opposition to public school mask mandates, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The Texas Supreme Court has blocked mask mandates ordered by two of the nation’s largest counties that defied Republican Gov. Greg Abbott as COVID-19 cases surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The orders by the state’s highest civil court — which is entirely comprised of elected Republican justices — halts mask requirements that county leaders in Dallas and San Antonio put in place as new infections soar and students begin returning to school. Texas reported 11,552 patients hospitalized with the virus Sunday, the most since Jan. 28. In the past month, hospitalizations have increased by 308%.

But officials in Dallas County and Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, brushed aside the Texas high court’s order, saying their specific mask mandates had either not been struck down or a final decision on the issue had not yet been made.

The Austin school district and Harris County, where Houston is located and which is the state’s most populous county with 4.7 million residents, also said their mask mandates for schools remained in place.

Officials in San Antonio and Bexar County said the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling had little practical effect on their lawsuit as a judge was holding a hearing Monday to decide whether to grant a temporary injunction against Abbott’s order, which would put it on hold while the lawsuit goes to trial. A judge was expected to issue a ruling later Monday afternoon on the temporary injunction request following an all day court hearing.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tweeted Sunday night the court’s ruling “did not strike down my face mask order” but had only removed a stay that had been put in place against Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates.

“This should never be a political fight. We’re at war on behalf of moms and dads and kids against a deadly virus. I sure wish the Governor would join our side in the battle,” Jenkins said.

Students and parents walk during the first day of school at Flores-Zapata Elementary on Monday, Aug. 16,2021 in Edinburg, Texas. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP)

Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said because the Texas Supreme Court’s orders did not specifically mention his school district, his district’s mandate would remain. Most of district’s students returned to campuses on Monday.

“There’s nothing about school districts in this order. So why would I back off now,” Hinojosa told reporters Sunday. “In our community (the mask mandate is) the right thing to do.”

Hinojosa said Monday that President Joe Biden left him a voicemail expressing support for his district’s mask mandate.

In a tweet Monday, Paxton called the Dallas school district “lawless” for violating Abbott’s order.

Kristine Montgomery, whose daughter Allyson started second grade on Monday in Dallas, told KTVT-TV in Fort Worth she understands why the mask mandate is in place but wishes it would have been up to parents to make the decision.

“We’re willing to do whatever we need to do to help keep everybody safe,” Montgomery said. Both Montgomery and her daughter wore masks as Allyson was dropped off at school Monday.

When asked about wearing masks, her daughter Allyson told the TV station, “I hate them so much.”

Roxana Weeks, 8, and sister Farah, 4, stand with their family as students and parents gather outside the Governor's Mansion to urge Gov. Greg Abbott to drop his opposition to public school mask mandates, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The Texas Supreme Court has blocked mask mandates ordered by two of the nation’s largest counties that defied Republican Gov. Greg Abbott as COVID-19 cases surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Roxana Weeks, 8, and sister Farah, 4, stand with their family as students and parents gather outside the Governor's Mansion to urge Gov. Greg Abbott to drop his opposition to public school mask mandates, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The Texas Supreme Court has blocked mask mandates ordered by two of the nation’s largest counties that defied Republican Gov. Greg Abbott as COVID-19 cases surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

During Monday’s court hearing in the San Antonio and Bexar county lawsuit, Michelle Means, a parent in Bexar County, testified on behalf of the state, telling a judge her county’s mask mandate has left her unsettled as she does not want her children to be forced to wear masks while in school.

“I agree with the governor. I am in the best position to make decisions for my family,” Means said.

While some school districts kept their mask mandates, others around the state returned to making mask wearing optional.

“While we are disappointed with (Sunday’s) judicial outcome, it does not change our commitment to the health and safety of our scholars,” said Gerald Hudson, superintendent of the Cedar Hill school district, located southwest of Dallas.

On Sunday, Nueces County in South Texas had issued a mask mandate but rescinded it a few hours later following the court ruling.

Officials from hospitals around the state say their facilities continue being overrun with COVID-19 patients again as the delta variant tears through the nation’s unvaccinated population and many don’t have enough nurses and other personnel to adequately staff intensive care unit or ICU beds.

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Cover Photo: Students and parents gather outside the Governor's Mansion to urge Gov. Greg Abbott to drop his opposition to public school mask mandates, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The Texas Supreme Court has blocked mask mandates ordered by two of the nation’s largest counties that defied Republican Gov. Greg Abbott as COVID-19 cases surge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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