Austin and Travis County move to include public colleges in mask mandate, Austin Community College says it will comply

Photo of an ACC building
Austin Community College has issued a mask mandate to take effect Aug. 20. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

Austin Community College has issued a mask mandate to take effect Aug. 20. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The city of Austin and Travis County announced Aug. 13 they would expand their orders requiring masking on campuses to include public colleges.

The initial order, issued Aug. 11, said masks must be worn on city and county premises by everyone over the age of 2, as well as on public school property. It did not specify that public colleges, such as Austin Community College, would be included.

The updated orders from the city and county do not apply to University of Texas at Austin because it is located on state-owned property.

Later on Aug. 13, ACC confirmed the city and county's order, issuing their own mask mandate during a discussion on health and safety protocols at the college's annual board of trustees retreat. People over the age of 2 will be required to mask up while in ACC buildings beginning Aug. 20.

“We have the responsibility and the authority to protect the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students and visitors. Medical data indicates a massive increase in cases has occurred over the past few weeks" said Nan McRaven, chair of ACC's board of trustees, in a statement. “We are a community college with open campuses serving the Central Texas community, and many ACC students are high schoolers as young as 14 years old."

ACC additionally said that most classes will be held online for the first three weeks of classes, from Aug. 23-Sept. 12, with the exception of classes that require in-person activities, such as labs. The number of students and staff allowed on campus will also be "scaled back."

Meanwhile, several district judges have supported local mask orders. On Aug. 13, Travis County District Court Judge Jan Soifer issued a temporary restraining order against Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order GA-38 barring local governments from issuing mask mandates. The decision followed a lawsuit filed on behalf of parents in three Travis County school districts.

“Today’s ruling by another District Judge reaffirms the position Travis County has taken all along—GA-38 is overreaching and limits the ability of local elected officials and health authorities to serve their constituents. This is why I issued additional orders early on protecting our school children and our workforce," Travis County Judge Andy Brown said in response to Soifer's decision. "It is my hope that the Governor understands that my fight is against COVID-19 and not against him. As I noted the other day, his threats of legal action are nothing compared to the threat of children getting sick and dying. Now is the time for state and local elected officials to work with one another to take the necessary steps as guided by science and local needs."
By Olivia Aldridge

Reporter, Central Austin

Olivia joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in March 2019. She covers public health, business, development and Travis County government. A graduate of Presbyterian College in South Carolina, Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas. Her work has appeared on NPR and in the New York Times.


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