Texas Supreme Court grants stay orders backing Gov. Greg Abbott against mask mandates in 2 counties

Austin’s trauma service area, with a population of more than 2.3 million people, has one ICU bed available. (Joe Warner/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin’s trauma service area, with a population of more than 2.3 million people, has one ICU bed available. (Joe Warner/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin’s trauma service area, with a population of more than 2.3 million people, has one ICU bed available. (Joe Warner/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Texas Supreme Court on Aug. 15 granted stay orders against mask mandates approved by lower courts last week in Dallas and Bexar counties. Several counties, cities and school districts have defied Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that prohibits mask mandates.

“This isn’t the first time we have dealt with activist characters,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a release. “It’s déjà vu all over again. Attention-grabbing judges and mayors have defied executive orders before, when the pandemic first started, and the courts ruled on our side—the law.”

The local mandates were approved last week after a steady rise of COVID-19 delta variant cases and hospitalizations in July and the first half of August.

Texas is broken up into 22 trauma service areas by the Texas Department of State Health Services. As of Aug. 15, the Dallas region, with a population estimate of more than 8 million people, has 83 intensive care unit beds available. Austin’s trauma service area, with a population of more than 2.3 million people, has one ICU bed available. Houston’s region, with more than 6.6 million residents, has 52 ICU beds available.

Statewide, there are 322 ICU beds available for nearly 30 million residents. Eight trauma service areas have no available ICU beds and there are 11,552 people hospitalized in Texas with lab confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to DSHS.


On Aug. 11, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued an executive order requiring face masks to be worn in public schools, businesses and county buildings. A temporary restraining order against the governor’s action against mandates was granted by 116th District Court Judge Tonya Parker. The Supreme Court’s decision will not affect a temporary injunction hearing scheduled for Aug. 24.

Travis County and the city of Austin on Aug. 11 issued a mask mandate for all city and county premises by everyone over the age of 2 as well as on public school property. That support came a day after Austin ISD required masks to be worn by students, staff and visitors.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued an order on Aug. 12 that requires face coverings to be worn in schools as students start the new school year this week.

Abbott and Paxton have vowed to fight any court restraining orders against the governor’s executive order.

“Under Executive Order GA-38, no governmental entity can require or mandate the wearing of masks,” Abbott said in a release. “The path forward relies on personal responsibility—not government mandates. The state of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”

Paxton filed a mandamus petition Aug. 11 to counter the actions of Jenkins in Dallas County. Bexar County has a temporary injunction hearing on Aug. 16, also not affected by the Supreme Court decision. Home to San Antonio, Bexar county has 55 ICU beds available for its trauma service area of nearly 3 million residents.
By Joe Warner
Joe Warner is executive editor of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as managing editor for Central Texas and senior editor of the flagship Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto newspaper. He came to Central Texas from Metro Detroit, where he was editor and general manager of several daily and weekly publications. He is the former president of the Michigan Press Association and was on the MPA board of directors for nine years.


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