Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott vowed Wednesday to take to court any school district, public university or local official who rejects his ban on imposing mask mandates in the Lone Star State.
Hours after Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins ordered masks to be worn in local schools, county buildings and businesses, Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenged him in the state’s Fifth Court of Appeals.
“[N]o governmental entity can require or mandate the wearing of masks,” Abbott said in a statement. “The path forward relies on personal responsibility—not government mandates. The State of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”
The governor doubled down in a Twitter post, writing: “Any school district, public university, or local government official that decides to defy [Executive Order] GA-38—which prohibits gov’t entities from mandating masks—will be taken to court.”
Jenkins’ order was made possible after a state district judge on Tuesday granted him a temporary restraining order against Abbott’s ban. He said Wednesday that his order was not about pitting “parents versus Governor Abbott, or Clay Jenkins versus Governor Abbott, or the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated.”
“This is all of us, we are all team public health, and the enemy is the virus,” Jenkins said, according to WFAA. “And right now the enemy is winning.”
Since Abbott signed his executive order July 29, a number of local officials have challenged it amid a surge in cases and hospitalizations due to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
In addition to Dallas, school districts in Austin, San Antonio, and Fort Worth require students and staff to wear masks on campuses and in other district buildings. They were joined Wednesday by the Houston suburb of Spring, whose 33,000 students will be required to wear masks starting Monday, along with faculty, staff and visitors.
Meanwhile, a judge granted officials in Fort Bend County, located just southwest of Houston, a temporary restraining order Wednesday after they filed a lawsuit seeking to override Abbott’s ban and reinstated an order requiring that masks be worn inside all public school buildings and county facilities. On Tuesday, yet another judge issued a different temporary restraining order, allowing officials in San Antonio and Bexar County to mandate masks in public schools.
The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas increased to 10,463 on Wednesday, the most since Feb. 3. State health officials reported 112 deaths on Wednesday, the first time the total surpassed 100 since March 10.
Abbott on Wednesday announced the state has arranged for the deployment of more than 2,500 medical personnel to help hospitals care for the increasing number of COVID-19 patients across Texas. On Monday, he requested the state’s hospitals consider postponing elective surgeries in order to deal with new COVID-19 cases.
With Post wires