San Antonio, Bexar County sues Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over his ban on mask mandates in schools

If challenge is successful, county will issue mask mandate, quarantine procedure for public schools

SAN ANTONIOEditor’s note: A judge has granted a temporary restraining order, read more here.

The City of San Antonio and Bexar County filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order barring local governments from issuing coronavirus mandates, including prohibiting schools from requiring masks.

The city and county are seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow officials to “immediately issue an order requiring masks in public schools and requiring quarantine if an unvaccinated student is determined to be in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual,” according to a news release.

A hearing over the lawsuit happened after 2 p.m. in 57th Civil District Court with Judge Toni Arteaga. She is currently considering the merits of the arguments.

“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,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement.

On July 29, Abbott issued an executive order that further removed tools from local governments to enact policies that public health experts say would help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including mask requirements, capacity limits and vaccine mandates. Abbott said the executive order “emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates.”

Local officials plan to argue that the governor’s executive order violates state laws that give mayors, county judges and public health entities the power to issue emergency orders during a crisis.

“As the county’s medical director, Dr. Junda Woo has the authority to issue emergency health directives requiring public schools to follow guidance – such as wearing a mask – to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Students under the age of 12 are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination,” according to the city’s news release.

The lawsuit comes amid a surge of COVID-19 infections that have pushed hospitals to the limit across the state and as schools return to campus for the fall semester.

In San Antonio, the 7-day average of new coronavirus cases is more than 1,200. Hospitalizations have also soared past 1,197. By comparison, an average of 140 patients were hospitalized with the virus in early July.

Several school districts have said they will openly defy Abbott’s ban on mask mandates and more court challenges are expected.

Bexar County’s lawsuit comes a day after Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins filed a similar lawsuit challenging Abbott’s order.

Read the lawsuit: