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9:48 pm, Dec 06
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Gov. Abbott’s new mask mandate prohibition order aims to “mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up”

Government

Gov. Greg Abbott’s new executive order prohibits all government institutions from requiring masks or restricting any form of activity amid the pandemic. According to Executive Director of Communications of Richardson ISD Tim Clark, the ruling will not affect the school district’s mask mandate, which is set to remain in effect through the end of this school year this late May.

The new mandate applies to all public schools after the current school year comes to a close. The change was brought upon after a reported decline in COVID cases and hospitalizations, and an increase in vaccines. Recently, Texas reported zero COVID deaths for the first time in over a year. At Richardson ISD, face-coverings will become optional during the 2021-2022 school year.

“Effective June 5, masks will become optional in schools and at school activities,” Clark told Dallas Express. “RISD has already been planning for masks to be optional in the 2021-22 school year so the governor’s order affirms that.”

When it goes into effect on June 4, the Texas Education Agency must modify its guidelines to grant parents, students, staff and visitors the option to wear a face-covering. Local entities who violate the new order will be subjected to $1,000 fines, effective May 21. The order does not apply to living facilities and hospitals operated by the government, as well as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities.

“The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities,” stated Abbott in a release. “Texans – not government – should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.”

Abbott’s very first mask mandate order was peculiar and round-a-bout. He began by prohibiting counties from mandating masks but then hinted that there was a loophole for counties to skirt his order and still mandate masks. It eventually permitted counties to mandate businesses to mandate masks. In July of 2020, Abbott then instituted a bonafide mask mandate, requiring virtually all Texans to wear a mask in public spaces.

In March of 2021, Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate and nominally prevented local governments from instituting their mandates. However, several municipalities ignored him and stuck by their mandates. His actions have often been contrasted with those of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The latter rescinded all meaningful COVID restrictions, including mask requirements back in the fall. DeSantis did technically allow localities to mandate masks, but he neutered their ability to enforce any orders. A recent order from DeSantis conflicts with Abbott’s approach. The Florida governor was the first to ban local governments from mandating masks, beating his Texas counterpart by more than two weeks. However, DeSantis’ order did not apply to public schools, whereas Abbott’s order explicitly did.