Texas Gov. Abbott says those who defy order barring mask mandates will ‘be taken to court’

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed on Wednesday to take any school or local government that defies his executive order barring mask mandates “to court” after he challenged a Dallas mask order.

Abbott, along with state Attorney General Ken Paxton, petitioned the 5th Court of Appeals in an attempt to block a district judge ruling that allowed the state’s second-largest school district to require masks. 

Earlier in the day, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins ordered that all schools, childcare centers and businesses in the county must require face coverings, after a district judge granted him temporary powers to supersede a previous order by the governor.

Abbott and Paxton argued the mandate violated the governor’s executive order that banned local governments from implementing mask regulations, despite the recent jump in coronavirus cases.

“Attention-grabbing judges and mayors have defied executive orders before, when the pandemic first started, and the courts ruled on our side – the law,” Paxton said in a statement. “I’m confident the outcomes to any suits will side with liberty and individual choice, not mandates and government overreach.”

Dallas, which serves more than 150,000 students, is not the only Texas city that has said it will enforce mask mandates as children head back into the classroom this fall.

The Houston Independent School District – Texas’ largest district with over 200,000 students – said it will create a mask mandate pending board approval Thursday. 

Austin and San Antonio also said they would also defy the governor’s order and require facial covering for students and adults while in the classroom.

Abbott lifted Texas’ mask mandate in March after cases started to drop during the vaccine rollout. By May he had issued an executive order barring local officials from establishing future mask requirements.  

“The path forward relies on personal responsibility—not government mandates,” Abbott said in a Wednesday statement. “The State of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”

The U.S. has seen an increase in the number of coronavirus cases reported in recent weeks, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting a 34 percent increase and a daily average of 90,000 new cases confirmed nationwide. 

Texas has reported a higher vaccination rate than the national average, with more than 64 percent of the state having received at least one shot, according to the CDC. 

Roughly 57 percent of Americans have been administered at least one dose of the vaccine. 

Children ages 2-12 have yet to be approved to receive the vaccine. 

Paul Best contributed to this report.

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