As of March 10, Texans will no longer be required by state law to wear a mask, and all businesses will be allowed to operate at full capacity. However, if COVID-19 hospitalizations do rise above a certain level—15% of all hospitalizations within a certain region—county judges will be able to take action, as Community Impact Newspaper reported.
The TEA released updated public health guidance and a COVID-19 FAQ on March 3.
"Under this updated guidance, a public school system’s current practices on masks may continue unchanged. Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy," the TEA stated in a news release accompanying the public health guidance.
However, HISD officials said they are still awaiting further guidance before they make decisions on masks. In a March 3 statement, HISD Chief Communications Officer Jamie Mount said no decisions have been made, as the district plans to talk with the TEA later this week.
"Superintendents are expecting to receive additional information and guidance from TEA on Thursday," the statement read. "District administrators will then utilize the next few days to consider all the information and discuss how any change in mask requirements after March 9 would affect student and staff experiences."
Current policies in HISD and NCISD mirror former statewide orders, through which residents were required to cover their faces if they were traveling through indoor spaces open to the public or outdoor areas where they could not maintain 6 feet of distance. However, those age 10 and younger were not required to wear face coverings.
However, HISD's on-campus operations published prior to the start of the school year stated that if there was no state mask requirement, "families will decide what is best for them" but that all staff and students are welcome to wear personal protective equipment.
NCISD officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment following the TEA's updated guidance. However, officials did provide a statement the morning of March 3 regarding Abbott's announcement, which reads as follows:
"New Caney ISD is seeking additional guidance from the Texas Education Agency regarding safety measures and health standards in place," the statement read. "All safety protocols will remain in effect in New Caney ISD schools and facilities until further clarification is obtained."
This article will be updated with NCISD's response when it is received.