Local Texas Leaders Defy Governor Over Mask Mandates
Local leaders in open rebellion against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask warrants on Tuesday won two legal victories that paved the way for them to at least temporarily demand the face coverings they say are necessary to fight the Delta variant which is causing a skyrocketing of cases in the state.
The first setback came in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio. Masks may be mandatory in public schools and other public buildings there for now after a Texas judge ruled in favor of San Antonio and Bexar county officials who pursued the ban on the tenure of Mask of Governor Greg Abbott.
Masks will also be mandatory for county and city employees, according to San Antonio city attorney Andy Segovia. Bexar County Director General Judge Nelson W. Wolf said the decision was important because many students are too young to get vaccinated and “come back to school unprotected.”
The second blow was dealt by a Dallas County district judge who ruled that Gov. Abbott’s order improperly prevented local authorities from protecting residents in an emergency. “The citizens of Dallas County will be irreparably injured” if local leaders cannot demand “face covering and mask warrants to stop the transmission of Covid-19,” judge Tonya Parker wrote in the ruling , referring to the county chief. Chief Executive Officer Clay Jenkins In light of the decision, Justice Jenkins noted he plans to issue an emergency order for the county tomorrow.
Texas recorded the second highest daily average of new coronavirus cases in the country on Monday, with 12,414, according to a New York Times database. This figure is about twice as high as at the end of July.
Now Texas hospitals are nearing capacity and some are bracing for an influx of even more patients. In Houston, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital is at 100% capacity in its intensive care units, with 63% of Covid cases, CNN reported. The hospital has erected tents to cope with a possible influx of patients.
Outbreaks in other parts of the country have sparked a new effort to curb the spread of the virus, with legal and political wrangling over further restrictions.
Local leaders in Florida, which is hit by its worst pandemic wave, are also defying the governor’s ban on mask warrants there. Governor Ron DeSantis threatens to withhold the salaries of local superintendents and members of the school board who enact them.
In Arkansas, where cases are mounting, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said over the weekend that he regretted having blocked a mask mandate in his state in April.
On Monday, Arkansas officials said the state only has eight intensive care unit beds. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said on Tuesday that in the 19 counties that make up the North Texas region, there were only two pediatric intensive care beds.
Governor Abbott signed a mask warrant ban in May. But unlike its Arkansas counterpart, it is sticking to its ban, even though local authorities defy it.
Austin Public Schools Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde on Monday announced that face masks would be required for the next school year, which begins Aug. 17.
Also on Monday, the board of directors of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling for a mask mandate in their district.
But Gov. Abbott’s office doubles up, saying in a statement Monday that the governor “has made it clear that we must rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates.”
On Tuesday, a temporary mask mandate for students, staff and visitors to Dallas public schools went into effect.
Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican political consultant who lives in the Lakeway area, a Republican-leaning suburb of Austin, said the growing number of cases has led more people to wear masks. “It’s clearly, it’s palpable,” he said of the new mask-wearing attitude among his neighbors. “I noticed it and it was like ‘Whoa’,” he added.
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