State Watch

Dallas County mandates masks in businesses, schools

Dallas County has reinstated an indoor mask mandate in businesses, schools and county buildings effective Wednesday night. 

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued an executive order Wednesday requiring masks to be worn inside certain public facilities as the county and state continue to see a surge in COVID-19 cases. 

The news follows a temporary restraining order that Jenkins issued on Monday against an executive order that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued in May that banned mask mandates in schools and local governments, NBC 5 Dallas-Forth Worth reported.

In July, Abbott issued an executive order that further reiterated that cities, counties, school districts and others could not require people to wear coverings indoors. 

A district judge in Dallas County granted the restraining order issued by Jenkins on Tuesday, allowing the county to avoid having to abide by Abbott’s mask ban.

“The citizens of Dallas County have and will continue to be damaged and injured by Governor Abbott’s conduct,” the district judge’s order said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “Judge Jenkins cannot be precluded from implementing the mitigation strategies he believes are sound, reliable, and backed by scientific evidence.”

The indoor mask mandate will become effective at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday.

Dallas County on Tuesday reported 3,270 additional positive COVID-19 cases, and a Dallas County dashboard indicated that Wednesday’s COVID-19 risk level was “high.” About 52 percent of residents in the county have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Texas has also seen a surge of new COVID-19 cases since the beginning of July. The state saw 2,386 new cases on Monday, and two days prior, it had reported 19,981 new cases. 

Abbott and state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) vowed to fight Jenkins’ executive order, asking a Texas appeals court to throw out the Dallas County judge’s mask mandate because it violated Abbott’s executive order and state law.

“Under Executive Order GA-38, no governmental entity can require or mandate the wearing of masks,” Abbott said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.” 

Officials in San Antonio and Bexar County also filed a temporary restraining order against Abbott’s executive order, which a district court judge approved Tuesday. 

Paxton called government officials reinstating mask mandates and the judges who granted their temporary restraining orders against Abbott’s mask ban “activist characters” and “attention-grabbing judges.”

“This isn’t the first time we have dealt with activist characters. It’s deja vu all over again,” Paxton said in a statement on Wednesday. “Attention-grabbing judges and mayors have defied executive orders before, when the pandemic first started, and the courts ruled on our side – the law. I’m confident the outcomes to any suits will side with liberty and individual choice, not mandates and government overreach.”

Updated at 7:49 p.m.

Tags COVID-19 Greg Abbott mask mandate Texas

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