Texas Supreme Court sides with Gov. Abbott, temporarily blocks mask mandates

The Texas Supreme Court sided with Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday in a ruling that temporarily blocks local mask mandates recently issued in San Antonio and Dallas, however officials said they will continue to enforce at least a portion of the mask mandates, despite the court ruling.

The Texas Supreme Court granted stay orders Sunday, but previously scheduled hearings on local mask mandates in lower courts in Bexar and Dallas counties will proceed as scheduled.

Abbott issued an executive order last month that barred governmental entities, including school districts, from requiring mask wearing.

But officials in Dallas County and Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, requested restraining orders against enforcement of Abbott’s order, which were granted.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday he appealed the lower court rulings to the Texas Supreme Court.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who asked for the temporary restraining order against Abbott’s executive order, reacted to the state Supreme Court decision on Twitter Sunday, noting the temporary injunction hearing set for August 24 will go forward.

“We won’t stop working with parents, doctors, schools, business + others to protect you and intend to win that [temporary injunction] hearing,” Jenkins said.

Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said Sunday that his district will continue to enforce a mask mandate when students and staff return to district campuses Monday morning, despite the Texas Supreme Court ruling.

“The order that was issued by the Supreme Court applied to Dallas County, and it’s listed, ‘Clay Jenkins and Dallas County,’ it did not say one word about Dallas ISD in that order. And so, I have been on the phone with my attorneys all afternoon and they are 100% unanimous,” Hinojosa said.

“We are going to have the mask mandate tomorrow. We’re going to be benevolent; we’re going to be nice, but we’re going to be firm and we’re going to enforce it,” the superintendent said.

Bexar County officials also said Sunday night they will continue to enforce the mask mandate in public schools and city facilities, despite the state Supreme Court ruling.

“The City of San Antonio and Bexar County’s response to the Texas Supreme Court continues to emphasize that the Governor cannot use his emergency powers to suspend laws that provide local entities the needed flexibility to act in an emergency,” San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement. “His suspension authority is meant to facilitate action, not prohibit it,” Segovia noted.

“Bexar County Health Authority Dr. Junda Woo’s health directive mandating the use of masks in public schools from pre-kindergarten through grade 12th remains in effect. City facilities will also continue to require the use of masks for both staff and visitors,” Segovia’s statement reads.

The ruling is the latest in a series of conflicts across the state — and the country — over mask mandates as schools gear up for reopening and while many students remain ineligible for a Covid-19 vaccine. Children under 12 are not yet allowed to get a vaccine in the US.

On Saturday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 21,896 new COVID-19 cases across the state.