The Texas governor can ban mask mandates, at least for now, after the Texas State Supreme Court on Sunday granted the state’s request for an emergency stay of an appellate court ruling that would have allowed mandatory face-coverings in schools.
The decision is temporary because the State Supreme Court must make a final ruling.
Late on Friday, after Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban suffered at least three legal setbacks, the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, said he was asking the State Supreme Court to consider Mr. Abbott’s policies.
The escalating battle comes as schools around the country open or prepare to, with tens of millions of children under 12 ineligible for vaccination and as hospitalizations of young people have been increasing amid the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
Some Republicans have cast mask rules as an infringement on parental rights, while many Democrats hold that they are a matter of public health.
The setbacks for Mr. Abbott on Friday were in areas with Democratic leaders, rampant coronavirus cases and rising hospitalizations.
Vaccinations in Texas lag those of many other states, and deaths are also rising, though far more slowly than in prior waves, given that the majority of the oldest and most vulnerable residents are now vaccinated.
A state district judge gave Harris County, which includes Houston, and several school districts across the state temporary permission to implement safety measures, including mask mandates.
In San Antonio, the state’s Fourth Court of Appeals denied Mr. Abbott’s challenge to an earlier ruling upholding a school mask mandate for Bexar County.
Shortly after the San Antonio court issued its ruling, the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas denied Mr. Abbott’s challenge to a county official’s mask mandate for public schools, universities and businesses.
The official who issued that order, Clay Jenkins, praised the ruling. “We should all be together; Team Human v Virus,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’ll keep following the doctor’s advise and work with anyone to beat #COVID19.”
On Sunday evening, after the State Supreme Court’s decision, Judge Jenkins wrote on Twitter that the court had “narrowly ruled.” “We won’t stop working with parents, doctors, schools,” his tweet continued, “to protect you and intend to win that hearing.”
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