Local Texas Leaders Defy Governor Over Mask Mandates
A judge ruled in favor of San Antonio and its surrounding county, which sued over Governor Abbott’s mask mandate ban.,
Local Texas officials are defying the governor’s ban on mask mandates.
By Azi Paybarah
- Aug. 10, 2021, 8:05 p.m. ET
A judge in Bexar County, which includes the city of San Antonio, Texas, ruled on Tuesday in favor of local officials there who requested a temporary restraining order against Governor Greg Abbott’s mask mandate ban. The ruling comes as the Delta variant is driving skyrocketing cases in the state and more local officials are defying the governor’s ban on mask mandates.
On Monday, Texas recorded the second highest daily average of new coronavirus cases in the country, with 12,414, according to a New York Times database. That figure is about twice as high as it was in late July.
Now, hospitals in Texas are nearing capacity and some are bracing for an influx of even more patients. In Houston, the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital is at 100 percent capacity in its intensive care units, with 63 percent Covid cases, CNN reported. The hospital erected tents to deal with a possible influx of patients.
Similar surges in other parts of the country have touched off a renewed effort to curb the spread of the virus. Local leaders in Florida, which is hit with its worst wave of the pandemic, are also defying the governor’s ban on mask mandates there.
In Arkansas, where cases are rising, the Republican governor Asa Hutchinson said this weekend that he regretting blocking in April a mask mandate in his state.
On Monday, Arkansas officials said the state had only eight intensive care unit beds available. On Tuesday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in the 19 counties that make up the North Texas region, there were only two pediatric ICU beds.
Governor Abbott signed a mask mandate ban in May. But unlike his counterpart in Arkansas, he is sticking with his ban, even as local officials are defying it.
On Monday, the superintendent of public schools in Austin, Stephanie S. Elizalde, announced that face masks would be required for the upcoming school year, which begins Aug. 17.
Also on Monday, the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of a resolution seeking a mask mandate in their district.
But Governor Abbott’s office is doubling down, saying in a statement on Monday that the governor “has been clear that we must rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates.”
On Tuesday, a temporary mask mandate for students, staff and visitors to public schools in Dallas went into effect.
Brendan Steinhauser, a Republican political consultant who lives in the Lakeway area, a Republican-leaning suburb of Austin, said the rising number of cases has led more people to wear masks. “It is clearly, it is palpable,” he said of the new mask-wearing attitude among his neighbors. “I noticed it and it was like, ‘Whoa,'” he added.