The Texas Supreme Court on Sunday temporarily blocked mask mandates in two state counties, letting stand Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on such measures.
The all-Republican court blocked mandates imposing mask requirements in schools in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio and Dallas County, until their cases can be heard, The Washington Post reported.
The ruling affirmed Abbott’s executive order that prohibited government entities from issuing mask mandates.
"The ban doesn't prohibit using masks. Anyone who wants to wear a masks can do so," the Republican governor tweeted Sunday night, The Texas Tribune reported.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office had petitioned the court citing the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, which gives the governor power to act as the "commander in chief"of the state's response to a disaster.
"Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all [independent school districts] and Local officials that the Governor's order stands," Paxton said in a tweet Sunday after the ruling.
The Texas Supreme Court's announcement came as the state's COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 400% over the past month, the Post reported.
Paxton on Sunday said COVID-19 numbers are spiking because of the record migrant surge at the border.
Attorneys representing cities and counties — which have sued Abbott over his executive order — have argued that the governor's orders should not supersede local orders.
On Friday, the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio had upheld a lower court ruling that permitted Bexar County to require mask-wearing in public schools.
The 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas later upheld an order from a Dallas County judge requiring masks in public schools, universities, and businesses.
Some of the local officials who defied Abbott's order said they'll continue to fight, the Tribune said.
The city of San Antonio said the Supreme Court's decision "has little practical effect" since a lower court's ruling granting the city temporary permission to issue a mask mandate expires Monday, when a Bexar County district court will hear the city’s case.
"The City of San Antonio and Bexar County's response to the Texas Supreme Court continues to emphasize that the Governor cannot use his emergency powers to suspend laws that provide local entities the needed flexibility to act in an emergency," said City Attorney Andy Segovia, the Tribune reported.
A Dallas Independent School District spokesperson said Sunday evening the district still planned to require masks when the school year begins for a majority of students on Monday, the Tribune reported.
Dallas County has a hearing on Aug. 24 before a lower court that granted it permission to implement its mask mandate.
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