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How does Austin Texas go about disregarding Gov. Abbott's order on masks?

Starting tomorrow, Wednesday, August 11th, Austin Independent School District students who are returning to school on August 17th are going to be mandated to wear masks again to attend school according to the Austin ISD School Board. But how does that work when Gov. Abbott has ordered that masks are no longer to be mandated?

Austin reaches Stage 5 spread level.

Numbers have been surging throughout the South with the Delta Variant causing many communities to see prevaccine COVID numbers with Travis County leading with astronomical positive COVID cases.

The 7-day moving average for new hospital admissions in Travis County increased over 600% from on July 4 to 67 by Aug. 4th. 

Austin's Emergency Alert System

On Saturday, August 7th, Austin city authorities decided to activate their emergency alert system which went off at noon to alert Austin residents of a "severely worsening COVID-19 situation" as area hospitalizations continued to surge.

It's with those numbers in mind that Austin ISD met to decide if disregarding Gov. Abbott's order would be worth the potential fight.

Austin ISD makes a big decision.

At a special called board meeting last night, August 9th, Austin Superintendent Stephanie S. Elizalde offered that the Austin ISD had taken all possible precautions except a mask mandate. "If I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we have been overly cautious," she said. "Not that we have fallen short," the Austin American Stateman reports. The board approved the mandate.

Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said yesterday he would require masks for students as well. And following in the footsteps of Dallas and Austin, Houston Superintendent Millard House II is meeting to also seek approval for a mask mandate for Houston students this week as well.

Here is what the Health Authority in Travis County had to say about the increase.

The virus is adapting to survive and so must we,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. You can read more on the Austin.gov health page here.

Texas is not alone.

The New York Times Interactive COVID map which you can view here, reports that as of today, August 10th Florida still leads in COVID cases with over 27,000 cases reported. Texas is second in line with over 12,000 cases and California not far behind with over 11,000.

Here is where we are in Victoria County this week.

As of Monday evening, Victoria had 144 new confirmed cases of COVID and 559 active cases. Victoria County reports a total of 10,326 total confirmed cases.


What about Gov. Abbott's order?

The Texas Tribune offers that, Under Abbott’s order, entities that defy the governor are subject to a $1,000 fine, but it is unclear how this would apply to school districts. Several sources offer that lawsuits are now being filed against Abbott's order as well.

We will keep you posted.

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