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Judge Allows San Antonio And Bexar County To Issue Mask Mandates For School Districts

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg
Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg

A Bexar County District judge will allow the City of San Antonio and Bexar County to issue mask mandates for school districts. Judge Antonia Arteaga granted a temporary restraining order against the state of Texas. The order halts a ban on school districts, cities and counties from enforcing mask mandates.

In her ruling, Judge Arteaga said she does not issue the restraining order lightly but the rise of COVID-19 cases is urgent.

Under the order, the city and county can require face masks in city- and county-owned facilities for visitors and employees. The temporary restraining order only applies to San Antonio and Bexar County — not other Texas cities. A full hearing for an injunction is scheduled for next Monday, Aug. 16.

Previous reporting on Aug. 10 at 10:15 a.m.:

Officials with the City of San Antonio and Bexar County released a joint press release Tuesday morning announcing a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is also challenging Gov. Greg Abbott's mask mandate ban.

The statement from San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff says they plan to challenge the governor’s “authority to suspend state laws that give local officials the needed authority to cope with an emergency.”

“We are challenging the governor’s authority to suspend local emergency orders during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Nirenberg. “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.”

Dr. Junda Woo, San Antonio Metropolitan District’s medical director — who is also Bexar County’s medical director — has the authority to issue emergency health directives involving public schools. This includes issuing a mask guidance. Students under 12 are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The press release notes Gov. Abbott has forbidden local medical authorities and school districts from requiring masks for unvaccinated students.

“As the school year begins, the health of our students, especially those under 12 who are not eligible to be vaccinated, are being put at risk. The pandemic is not over. We need to continue to utilize every tool we have to combat the very contagious delta variant. We have come too far to allow our students to be super spreaders and put more lives at risk,” Wolff said.

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Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules
Bri Kirkham can be reached at bri@tpr.org or on Twitter at @BriKirk