The 4th Court of Appeals on Friday denied Gov. Greg Abbott’s request to stop San Antonio and Bexar County from enforcing local mask mandates.
Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the petition with the 4th Court of Appeals on Thursday on behalf of the governor. San Antonio and Bexar County sued Abbott on Tuesday and received a temporary restraining order (TRO) from a Bexar County district judge that allowed them to require masks in city- and county-owned buildings and in schools.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District medical director issued a directive later that day requiring all students, staff, and visitors at area public schools to wear masks while indoors.
The city and county have a hearing scheduled for Monday to extend the TRO.
“We are pleased with the result of the Fourth Court’s ruling,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement. “The mask mandate is time-sensitive and every day we have to fight the pandemic is another day we are able to keep our community safe. We look forward to the Monday temporary injunction hearing.”
According to the lawsuit filed by the city and county Tuesday, Abbott overstepped his authority as governor by blocking local governments from managing public health within their own jurisdictions. The state argues that the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 gives the governor that authority.
“The Governor is also entitled to a writ of mandamus because he lacks an adequate remedy for the trial court’s unlawful action by ordinary appeal,” the attorney general wrote in the petition filed Thursday. “In this instance, the trial court has declared that the Governor cannot act anywhere in Bexar County or San Antonio to manage a statewide disaster.”
Paxton and Abbott filed a similar petition with the 5th Court of Appeals on Wednesday, in response to a TRO given to the Dallas County judge, who subsequently issued a mask mandate for Dallas-area K-12 schools, higher education institutions, child care facilities, and businesses. Abbott said Wednesday that he stands by his executive order prohibiting local governments from requiring masks.
“The path forward relies on personal responsibility — not government mandates,” Abbott said in a statement. “The State of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”
The city and county attributed their urgency in obtaining a TRO and requiring masks in schools to students returning to the classroom while coronavirus cases surge. At a briefing Thursday evening, local officials said that pediatric COVID-19 cases are climbing. The number of emergency medical service transports related to COVID-19 calls is also up, bringing EMS close to its maximum service abilities. For 26 minutes on Thursday, there were no units available to take calls, City Manager Erik Walsh said.
“For that 26 minute period, we can’t transport any emergency medical calls — whether it’s COVID or not, whether it’s someone who’s vaccinated or not,” Walsh said. “That means we’re not transporting heart attacks, traffic accidents, or any sort of medical call. So it is critical.”
Of the 193 new coronavirus patient admissions to area hospitals on Wednesday, 28 are children, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.
“It’s infecting more and more children under 12, none of whom are eligible to be vaccinated,” he said. “More pediatric cases means more pediatric hospitalizations, regardless of the severity of disease on a case-by-case basis. That’s why masks are so important for our younger population and for the rest of us.”