The Latest: Texas state judge upholds Austin's mask mandate

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People stand in line for last minute shopping outside an Ikea store in Brussels, Friday, March 26, 2021. New rules for non-essential shopping begin on Saturday in Belgium as the nation tries to reduce its fast-rising COVID-19 numbers. Beginning Saturday customers will need to book an appointment to be allowed inside all non-essential businesses. (AP Photo/Mark Carlson)

AUSTIN, Texas — A Texas judge is allowing the City of Austin to continue to require face coverings in local businesses weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott ended a statewide mask mandate and other COVID-19 safety measures.

The ruling Friday by state District Judge Lora Livingston is at least a temporary victory for local leaders in the liberal state capital who have repeatedly clashed with Abbott over his handling of the pandemic.

Face coverings have only ever been loosely enforced in Texas, which earlier this month became the biggest state to drop COVID-19 restrictions.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to appeal the ruling.

The roughly 3,400 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Texas is the lowest number since October. On Monday, Texas will begin making all adults eligible for coronavirus vaccinations.

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THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

VACCINES: More than 89.5 million people, or 27% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 48.6 million people, or 14.7% of the population, have completed their vaccination.