This story has been updated.

Gov. Greg Abbott nabbed a small victory in court Sunday when the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked a mask mandate from San Antonio and Bexar County.

The Texas Supreme Court granted Abbott temporary relief on Sunday. The court also blocked a similar mask mandate in Dallas County.

“The City of San Antonio and Bexar County’s response to the Texas Supreme Court continues to emphasize that the Governor cannot use his emergency powers to suspend laws that provide local entities the needed flexibility to act in an emergency,” City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement Sunday evening. “His suspension authority is meant to facilitate action, not prohibit it.” 

San Antonio and Bexar County sued Abbott on Tuesday over a July executive order in which he prohibited local governments from issuing their own mask mandates. A district judge in Bexar County granted the city and county a temporary restraining order (TRO) that gave them the ability to require masks in certain places. After receiving the order, the city and county required masks in buildings they owned, and the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District issued a health directive requiring masks on all students, staff, and visitors while indoors at public schools.

A Sunday news release from the city, however, insisted the local mask mandates in city- and county-owned buildings remained in effect after Sunday’s stay by the court, as well as at public schools teaching pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

The city and county attributed the urgency for mask requirements to the fact that children under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Most school districts begin school either on Monday or Aug. 23. San Antonio, Edgewood, and South San Antonio school districts have been back in school, as well as Converse Elementary School in Judson ISD and Castle Hills Elementary in North East ISD. The remaining Judson ISD and North East ISD schools open Monday.

Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton already attempted to cut off the mask mandate last week, asking the 4th Court of Appeals on Thursday to block the TRO and stop the city and county from enforcing mask-wearing. The appellate court denied their petition on Friday.

The temporary restraining order was set to expire Monday, when San Antonio and Bexar County are scheduled to return to court and ask a judge to extend their ability to mandate masks. The Texas Supreme Court’s action on Sunday did not affect the hearing.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.