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Judge Sides With San Antonio, Bexar County In Lawsuit Against Abbott’s Mask Mandate Ban

San Antonio School COVID
Eric Gay
/
AP
February file photo of students at Driggers Elementary School in San Antonio attending a class in-person as they interact with classmates virtually. A district court judge has sided with San Antonio and Bexar County in granting a temporary injunction on face mask mandates for schools, as well as city and county offices and buildings.

Judge Toni Arteaga has sided with San Antonio and Bexar County in granting a temporary injunction on face mask mandates for schools, as well as city and county offices and buildings. It’s the second victory for the city and county in a week at the district court level.

Bexar County and San Antonio first filed the lawsuit against Gov. Abbott's executive orders banning mask mandates last week.

Arteaga, a judge of Texas' 57th Civil District Court, granted a temporary restraining order last Tuesday, which allowed the Bexar County Public Health Authority, Junda Woo, the ability to issue a health directive requiring masks in schools.

Dallas County filed a similar suit and had a similar temporary restraining order blocking the governor's mask mandate.

The state appealed, and on Friday, the Texas 4th Court of Appeals upheld the restraining orders again. Sunday night, the Texas Supreme Court struck down the orders by the court of appeals, meaning the state had the authority to ban masks again.

At the hearing, the San Antonio argued that it has the legislative authority to adopt measures such as the mask mandate in the jurisdiction of public health. Bill Christian, who represented the city in the hearing and gave closing arguments on the city’s behalf, said COVID-19 threatens immediate and irreparable harm to the community. The attorney for the county, Bob Piatt, conferred.

They said the healthcare system is at risk of being overwhelmed, and services like EMS are stretched thin.

State attorney Kimberly Gdula, however, said the harm the city and county pointed to was “speculative.” She said the status quo from the Texas Supreme Court is in effect via its ruling on the temporary restraining orders Sunday night.

Bexar County Health Authority Junda Woo said 25-33% of people in the hospital have ended up in intensive care under the current delta surge. She also said a person with the delta variant infects 8-9 people, compared to the 1-2 people infected under the initial strain.

"I'm worried we're going to break our healthcare system,” Woo said in testimony at Monday’s hearing regarding a local mask mandate. "We can't keep asking people to do this over and over again."

Woo said the level of burnout and anger among healthcare workers is at levels she has never seen before.

A hearing on Dallas County's order is scheduled for later this month. In response to the state supreme court's ruling Sunday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins revised the guidance, removing a possible fine for private businesses who don't comply with the indoor mask mandate.

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