As expected, Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, asking the justices to lift an injunction that allows masks to be required in Bexar County public schools.
The injunction, granted to Bexar County by 57th Civil District Court Judge Toni Arteaga on Aug. 16, prevents the enforcement of Abbott’s latest emergency order, which bars any governmental entity, including schools, from requiring face coverings. Arteaga cited the vulnerability of children in school and a “dire situation” in Bexar County hospitals amid a surge of COVID-19 cases.
State officials were unsuccessful in their initial appeal to the Fourth Court of Appeals, which upheld the injunction on Thursday.
“Of course, they will appeal it to the Supreme Court and we may not do so well there,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said during a COVID-19 update on Thursday.
The Texas Supreme Court previously lifted a temporary restraining order that allowed for the Bexar County mask mandate in a victory for Abbott and Paxton. However, justices noted that the lawsuits could continue and injunction hearings could be held. The injunction was granted during a Bexar County court hearing on the following day.
Lawyers for the state argued the temporary injunction breaches on the governor’s authority granted to him under the Texas Disaster Act. They also said the mask mandate was adding to “statewide confusion arising from the multiple, conflicting orders that courts at all levels of the judiciary have issued in the past several weeks.”
Bexar County’s lawyers have argued that the governor’s executive orders violate the Texas Health and Safety Code, which allows local health officials to enact mandates for public health reasons.
If the Texas Supreme Court rules in the state’s favor, it would likely put an end to their efforts to undo Abbott’s executive order, though the order is being challenged by other schools and counties across the state.
As of Monday, Bexar County hospitals were reporting 1,466 COVID-19 patients, with 412 in the ICU and 279 on ventilators. Only 8% of staffed hospital beds are available, stressing hospital staff and resources.
Since the pandemic began, 3,731 Bexar County residents have died because of the virus.