State Watch

San Antonio sues Texas governor over restrictions on mask, vaccine mandates

Texas Governor Greg Abbott
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The city of San Antonio is suing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) over the governor’s executive order barring local governments from imposing mask and vaccine mandates.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement that the city is “challenging the governor’s authority to suspend local emergency orders during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Ironically, the governor is taking a state law meant to facilitate local action during an emergency and using it to prohibit local response to the emergency that he himself declared,” Nirenberg said.

The city of San Antonio and Bexar County filed the suit in a Bexar County court asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent the enforcement of the order.

If the court grants the order, the San Antonio Bexar County Health Authority will issue an order requiring masks in public schools and requiring unvaccinated students who are determined to be in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 to quarantine.

Renae Eze, a spokesperson for Abbott, told The Hill in a statement that “the assertion that the Governor of the State of Texas doesn’t have the authority to protect the rights and freedoms of Texans is just plain misguided.” 

“Under Chapter 418, the Governor has full authority to issue executive orders that have the full force and effect of law in response to a disaster. This health disaster has continued to change, and so should our response. Texans have learned and mastered over the past year the safe practices to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID, and do not need the government to tell them how to do so,” Eze said. 

Abbott signed the executive order in late July. It bans governmental entities, including schools districts, from imposing mask mandates and prevents governmental entities from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine that is under emergency use authorization. 

Entities that implement measures that constitute a “failure to comply with” the order could be fined up to $1,000.

The Dallas County Independent School District said Monday that it is mandating all staff, students and visitors to wear masks despite the order.

On the same day, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin the state from imposing the measure

But San Antonio’s suit also comes as other GOP governors seek to block local officials from imposing mask mandates, particularly for schools, despite increases in coronavirus infections fueled by the delta variant.

A similar dispute is playing out in Florida, which has become the epicenter of COVID-19 cases. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is threatening to withhold salaries from school officials who enforce mask mandates.

Updated at 2:35 p.m.

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