Ignoring CDC, Abbott Ends Debate Over Masks in Texas

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott abruptly put an end to any ongoing debate over mask wearing in Texas by issuing an executive order that bars nearly every governmental entity within the state – including school districts – from requiring or mandating masks. The only exceptions are state-supported homes, state-run hospitals and state, county and municipal jails and prisons.

(Photo by Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images)

“Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities,” Abbott said in a statement. “We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.”

Local governments and officials can only keep mask orders in place until Friday, or they will face a fine of up to $1,000.

School districts can keep their current guidelines only up until June 4. On that date, Abbott’s order requires that the Texas Education Agency revise its current guidance to reflect that “no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor may be required to wear a face covering.”

Nearly¬†12 million Texans have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 41.7 percent of the Lone Star state’s 16-and-older population is fully vaccinated. The vast majority of the state’s five million K-12 students, however, are not vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its recommendations for those who are vaccinated, but said that schools should keep the same social distancing and mask requirements at least through the 2020-21 school year.

Some teachers’ groups say Abbott’s move is “premature.” “The governor should have waited until the C.D.C. issues new mask guidelines for the 2021-22 school year before acting on masking requirements in public schools,” said Texas State Teachers Association spokesperson Clay Robison in a statement. “We know some school districts already have ended their mask mandates, and we believe that also is ill-advised. The health and safety of our students, educators and communities must remain our first priority as we attempt to emerge from this pandemic.”

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