Texas judge says Austin can have its mask mandate in place for now


  • A Texas judge ruled that the city of Austin is able to keep its mask mandate for at least two more weeks.
  • The ruling rebukes Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to roll back a statewide mandate. 
  • Health officials have been sounding the alarms against relaxing COVID-19 restrictions like mask-wearing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A Texas judge on Friday ruled that the city of Austin is able to keep its mask mandate for at least two more weeks, running against Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to roll back a statewide mandate. 

Abbott earlier this month issued an executive order that lifted the state’s mask mandate beginning March 10.

With this ruling from Judge Lora Livingston, Austin can keep its mandate in place until at least March 26, KXAN reported. When the two weeks are up, there will be a hearing to determine whether Austin’s mask mandate remains in place going forward. 

In response to Abbott’s order, city officials announced that a local mask mandate would remain in place until April 15 to “avoid another surge of cases” of the coronavirus. 

The announcement from Austin officials drew ire from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who threatened to sue for enforcing mask-wearing despite Abbott’s order.

After receiving a letter from Paxton indicating intent of legal action, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he and Abbott were “simply wrong” and said their decision is an “assault against doctors and data.”

Most Texans have not yet received a coronavirus vaccine. Just over 9% of the state’s population has been vaccinated, vaccine-tracker data from Johns Hopkins University showed. Meanwhile, Texas has been rebounding from a devastating winter storm that led to disruptions in vaccine operations in the state.

Health officials have been sounding the alarms against relaxing COVID-19 restrictions like mask-wearing.

Mask-wearing for months has been one of the guidelines that various health agencies have touted as most effective for preventing the spread of the coronavirus in public spaces. Texas, however, is not alone in the decision to roll back mask mandates. Other states such as Mississippi, Montana, Iowa, and North Dakota have either entirely rolled back or announced plans to end mask mandates.

An ABC News-IPSOS poll released last week said 56% of Americans surveyed believe that government officials are loosening mask mandates too quickly. 

Abbott’s executive order contradicts the guidance from health officials like Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who cautioned that despite three FDA-approved vaccines on the market, “now is not the time to relax restrictions.” 

Adler called the judge’s ruling “good news” in a tweet. 

“No matter what happens then, we will continue to be guided by doctors and data. Masking works,” Adler tweeted.

 

Paxton’s office did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

It’s been just over a year since the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic. More than 29 million people in the United States have contracted the virus in that time, the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed. Over 500,000 Americans have died

JHU data showed that in Texas, there have been more than 2.6 million confirmed cases and more than 45,000 deaths.

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