HARRIS COUNTY – On Friday, a Travis County District Court judge granted Harris County’s request for an order preventing the state from enforcing Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order regarding mask mandates. Abbott’s executive order prohibits local officials from mandating masks as a means to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
Once the judge signs the order, it will be in place until the court has a hearing on the county’s request for a temporary injunction and makes a decision, according to a press release from the Harris County Attorney’s office. If approved, the temporary injunction would be in place until there is a final ruling in the case.
In the interim, the temporary restraining order allows Harris County and local school districts within Harris County to enact masking requirements for students and employees.
Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee stated: “While this decision is temporary, it’s a victory for residents in Harris County who are concerned about this public health crisis. We need every tool at our disposal to stop the spread of COVID-19, including masks and other measures that are proven to slow the spread. It’s critical that we work swiftly to do as much as possible to protect those who cannot be vaccinated, like our young children heading to school and our immunocompromised.”
Friday’s news of a restraining order comes a day after the Harris County Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit against Gov. Abbott’s executive order, which bans local entities and school districts from requiring masks and vaccines.
In a news release, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said: “Abbott has repeatedly misused his authority under Texas disaster laws. The current wave of the Delta variant presents a real and imminent threat to our most vulnerable populations, and local officials need to be able to respond to this crisis. The governor’s executive order acknowledges this crisis and then bans any meaningful action to address it.”
Harris County joins several other local counties, such as Dallas and Bexar, which have also sued the governor. Favorable rulings allow local officials the authority to decide.
Houston Independent School District, the largest district in the state, is among the districts planning to require staff, students and visitors to wear masks. Some are even considering a virtual learning option.
On Tuesday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced that the county has authorized the Harris County attorney to file a lawsuit challenging Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates.
Hidalgo said Tuesday that the county is filing the suit following concerns from multiple school leaders, and the fourth wave of the coronavirus.
“First responders and school leaders are speaking out and standing up as Delta ravages our community. We have their back,” Hidalgo tweeted.
NEW: We just authorized the Harris County Attorney to file a lawsuit challenging GA-38, the order that prevents Texas local governments from requiring masks. First responders and school leaders are speaking out and standing up as Delta ravages our community. We have their back.— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) August 11, 2021
Despite COVID-19 numbers increasing, Abbott stated earlier this month that he was past the point of issuing government mandates to slow the spread of COVID-19, even as the delta variant has cases and hospitalizations up across the nation. Instead, he said it is time for personal responsibility, which he emphasized when he took away the statewide mask mandate earlier this year.
“Going forward, in Texas, there will not be any government-imposed shutdowns or mask mandates,” he said. “Everyone already knows what to do.”