Politics

District Court Judge Sides With San Antonio, Bexar County In Lawsuit Against Gov. Abbott’s Mask Mandate Ban

Bexar County and San Antonio first filed the lawsuit against Gov. Abbott’s executive orders banning mask mandates last week.

Students were spaced at least six feet apart in the cafeteria for lunch at Medora Elementary Wednesday morning. It was the first day back to school since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down in-person classes March 2020.

Judge Toni Arteaga has sided with San Antonio and Bexar County in granting a temporary injunction on face mask mandates for schools, as well as city and county offices and buildings. It's the second victory for the city and county in a week at the district court level.

Bexar County and San Antonio first filed the lawsuit against Gov. Abbott’s executive orders banning mask mandates last week.

Arteaga, a judge of Texas’ 57th Civil District Court, granted a temporary restraining order last Tuesday, which allowed the Bexar County Public Health Authority, Junda Woo, the ability to issue a health directive requiring masks in schools.

The state appealed, and on Friday, the Texas 4th Court of Appeals upheld the restraining orders again. Sunday night, the Texas Supreme Court struck down the orders by the court of appeals, meaning the state had the authority to ban masks again.

At the hearing, the city argued that it has the legislative authority to adopt measures such as the mask mandate in the jurisdiction of public health. Bill Christian, who represented the city in the hearing and gave closing arguments on the city's behalf, said COVID-19 threatens immediate and irreparable harm to the community. The attorney for the county, Bob Piatt, conferred.

They said the healthcare system is at risk of being overwhelmed, and services like EMS are stretched thin.

State attorney Kimberly Gdula, however, said the harm the city and county pointed to was "speculative." She said the status quo from the Texas Supreme Court is in effect via its ruling on the temporary restraining orders Sunday night.

Bexar County Health Authority Junda Woo said 25-33% of people in the hospital have ended up in intensive care under the current delta surge. She also said a person with the delta variant infects 8-9 people, compared to the 1-2 people infected under the initial strain.

“I’m worried we’re going to break our healthcare system," Woo said in testimony at Monday's hearing regarding a local mask mandate. “We can’t keep asking people to do this over and over again.”

Woo said the level of burnout and anger among healthcare workers is at levels she has never seen before.

A hearing on a permanent injunction has not yet been scheduled.

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