Local Officials Buck Texas Supreme Court Ruling, Still Forcing Masks on Citizens

judge clay jenkins
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins talking about mandating masks (Shelby Tauber for The Texas Tribune).

More confusion is unraveling across the state as elected officials continue quarreling about their authority to impose mask mandates, all while trying to force old rules on citizens that didn’t work the first time.

Power Fight

The saga originally began last year, when Gov. Greg Abbott issued executive orders closing businesses and imposing mask mandates in response to the Chinese coronavirus. Then, in July, he issued an executive order that local officials are not allowed to mandate masks on citizens.

Despite Abbott’s most recent order, local officials across Texas have started disregarding it and imposing their own local mask requirements. Austin Mayor Steve Adler even said if he could, he would force citizens to get injected with COVID vaccinations, and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins reportedly plans to do the same to county staff.

Furthermore, last week, some of those officials then sued Gov. Abbott in an effort to legitimize their own orders, asking local courts to opine that they indeed have the power to forcibly mask citizens.

District judges in Dallas and Bexar counties granted those requests, issuing restraining orders purporting to restrict Abbott from “enforcing” his order. Local officials claimed these rulings validated their decision to move forward with local mask mandates.

That suit quickly escalated to the Texas Supreme Court, which announced on Sunday that it was overturning the Dallas and Bexar judges’ decisions, essentially upholding Abbott’s order temporarily.

Who’s in Charge?

After the court’s decision, however, some officials said they will continue their mask commands anyway.

“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. “His suspension authority is meant to facilitate action, not prohibit it.”

“Bexar County Health Authority Dr. Junda Woo’s health directive mandating the use of masks in public schools from pre-kindergarten through grade 12th remains in effect. City facilities will also continue to require the use of masks for both staff and visitors.”

Additionally, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he believes the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t stop his order—though he is removing the penalty for businesses who refuse to obey him.

“The Tex Supreme Court did not strike down my face mask order. Rather they removed the stay on the [Governor’s recent executive order],” Jenkins tweeted. “Unless I receive a ruling requiring otherwise, I will amend my order to remove the possibility of fines on non-compliant businesses but otherwise leave the order in effect.”

Shockingly, Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa, who was one of the officials continuing to force masks on school children despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, said he received a voicemail from President Joe Biden applauding him on his action. Biden, up until this afternoon, had hidden from the public for the last several days while an international crisis transpired in Afghanistan.

“Glad @POTUS had time to leave a voice mail while not addressing the nation on the catastrophe unfolding in Afghanistan,” one citizen tweeted.

Amid the confusion of state and local officials’ executive orders, one fact is clear—the state Legislature could have clarified this issue months ago by enacting a state law to stop mask mandates. They instead declined to act, leaving Texans to guess on the authority and effect of their various elected officials’ decrees.

While Politicians Play Games, Children Suffer

On top of that, health experts have warned against forcing children to wear masks, and even a Center for Disease Control study last year found that masks were not effective in stopping the spread of the flu (a virus similar in size to the coronavirus).

“There’s no scientific rationale or logic to have children wear masks in schools,” said Stanford University’s Dr. Scott Atlas, who described the mask mandate evidence from numerous counties, states, and countries.

“There’s no evidence that a mask mandate was effective in stopping the cases from spreading. … And, in fact, there is evidence, as [a fellow doctor] cited, that the people in the United States at a very high frequency have been wearing masks for months and the cases exploded,” said Dr. Atlas at a roundtable discussion last year. “Whether it’s in certain states like Hawaii, Minnesota … you could look at all the data. So this has sort of become folklore—one of the many obsessions—and it’s been harmful.”

“Children should not wear face masks, no. They don’t need it for their own protection, and they don’t need it for protecting other people, either,” said Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a biostatistician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The Irish Health Authority, after conducting a report on the subject earlier this year, even called the forced masking of kids “child abuse.”

Citizens React

Meanwhile, Texans are responding to local officials who are again trying to mandate masks.

“Framing it like those of us with a different view doesn’t care about children is, of course, more bad faith,” one citizen replied to Dallas County Judge Jenkins on social media. “For kids: Minimal risk from Covid / more risk from psychological effects of masks and distancing. This is why I oppose masking in schools.”

“So if [San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg] defied the governor’s authority for political pts; did you just set a precedent for us to defy you?” another citizen tweeted. “Please talk about the 99.7% of the cases that are fine. You keep spreading fear from the .003%. Stop.”

As the power struggle over mask mandates unfolds, concerned citizens may contact their elected officials.

If your local governmental entity is continuing to impose a mask mandate or anything else prohibited by [Abbott’s executive order], please write us [email protected],” tweeted AG Paxton.

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