Hays County Judge Ruben Beccera issued an executive order Friday evening that requires everyone to wear masks in public schools.

The order, issued Aug. 13 at 10:45 p.m., became effective Sunday morning and is technically a reinstatement of the Declaration of Local Disaster Order issued March 15, 2020.

According to a press release, students, staff and visitors to any public or public charter school campus over the age of two years will be required to wear a “form of covering that fits snugly over the nose or mouth, such as commercially made or homemade fabric mask, scarf or bandana.”

“Currently, 70% of the 12-15 [years old] age group are unvaccinated, and children under 12 are not eligible for a vaccine at all,” Judge Beccera said. “Masks are their only line of defense.”

The order will be considered in effect until readdressed or modified by the county.

At an Aug. 12 special meeting of the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District, the Board of Trustees voted to mandate mask wearing in schools under their jurisdiction.

San Marcos CISD has about 8,000 students under its purview. Hays CISD has more than 20,000 and has as of yet not scheduled whether to readdress this issue.

The County Judge’s executive action overrides any such decisions.

The order effectively joins Hays County in a lawsuit filed by Bexar County, Travis County, the city of San Antonio and other municipalities against Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-38, which prohibits any government entity from requiring face coverings.

In a letter written Aug. 14 addressed to parents in Hays CISD, Superintendent Eric Wright addressed the new Hays County order.

He addressed the legal concerns of the back-and-forth between local governments and the state, and that the district is awaiting guidance on the issue. However, he said despite any ruling in the governor’s favor or for the local officials opposing him, Wright still wants everyone to voluntarily wear masks.

What we should do is wear masks. Wearing a mask violates no law or order. It is the safe thing to do medically and legally,” Wright said.

“While we await a decision on whether not wearing a mask violates the law, we will continue to urge parents to send their children to school in masks—especially at the elementary school level where vaccines are not yet an option.”