Harris County Issues Mask Mandate For All County Schools And Child Care Centers

The mandate applies to all students, employees, and visitors — regardless of vaccination status.

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
The CDC announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people can safely stop wearing masks indoors. Kyle Faircloth, Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies, is seen teaching a class at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla., in February.

Harris County Public Health issued a mandatory mask mandate for county school systems and child care centers Thursday evening — hours after county officials filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders banning such mandates.

The mandate applies to all students, employees, and visitors — regardless of vaccination status. The order also requires schools to notify parents when their child has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she was extremely concerned with the continued increase of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the region. She added that the number of hospitalized children has increased drastically.

“What I’ve heard is a consistent concern about the lack of ability that these leaders have to keep children safe as school starts once again,” she said. “It is important to me that Harris County has a clear position on this.”

In a letter to superintendents, Hidalgo wrote that she hoped the order would provide school officials with the guidance needed to protect the region’s students.

"There's an unwritten contract between parents and their schools — and it's that when our children are under the care of their schools, they do everything they can to keep them safe," Hidalgo wrote.

The news comes hours after County Attorney Christian Menefee filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates on Thursday.

Harris County joins Fort Bend County, which was granted a temporary restraining order on Wednesday — allowing the county to implement their own mask mandate for employees and visitors in county schools and buildings. San Antonio and Dallas were also granted temporary restraining orders against Abbott’s mandate bans on Tuesday.

Hidalgo said the county was on “stronger legal footing” due to the amount of pushback against the governor’s orders, and added that she wasn’t focused on the potential legal repercussions of mandating masks.

“We cannot stand by and simply let the virus take hold on this way in the community without doing something about it,” she said. “I have no choice right now. I have no choice.”

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