Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Thursday issued an order requiring masks to be worn in schools within the county, going against Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide ban on mask mandates in schools.
The order mandates all public and non-religious private schools along with child care centers in Harris County to follow the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in late July recommending all students in grades K-12 to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, ABC 13 reported.
There are more than 1,100 public schools serving roughly 895,000 students in Harris County for the 2021 school year, according to Public Schools Review. Houston ISD, the largest school district in Texas, falls under the order as well.
With schools back in session, the Harris County Local Health Authority is implementing the use of facemasks on all public and non-religious private schools to protect the health of students and their families. Read more about it here: https://t.co/LfxE14z7Sm pic.twitter.com/VH4WbFJcK2
— Harris County Public Health #GetVaxxed (@hcphtx) August 13, 2021
“Please note that face coverings are a secondary strategy to getting vaccinated and should be undertaken with other mitigation efforts,” the order reads. “Face coverings are not a replacement for vaccinations or for those who cannot get vaccinated due to age or disability, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and self-isolation when sick.” (RELATED: New York Times Promotes Study On Child Masking That Has One Massive Flaw)
Harris County officials said the new mask mandate is a response to the highly contagious Delta variant. Texas health officials estimated earlier in August that the variant currently makes up more than 75% of new COVID-19 cases in the state, KUT reported.
Hidalgo is at the same time challenging Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates. She announced earlier Tuesday that the Harris County commissioner’s court had authorized the county attorney to file a lawsuit against the governor’s order.
Both Austin ISD and Dallas ISD are also going against Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in schools. Both school districts have said students and faculty will be required to wear masks for the upcoming school year, arguing the governor’s order does not limit school districts’ right to implement health and safety measures.