Politics

Texas GOP officials praise ruling blocking federal vaccine, mask mandate for Head Start program

As the lawsuit continues to play out in federal court, a U.S. District judge last week halted one of the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates in Texas through a preliminary injunction. The suit was brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lubbock’s largest school district.

Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined Lubbock ISD in suing to stop Head Start from requiring staff and volunteers in the early childhood program to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 31.

A federal judge on Friday agreed to temporarily block the Biden Administration's vaccine and mask mandates for the federally-funded preschool program in Texas known as Head Start.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined Lubbock ISD in suing to stop Head Start from requiring staff and volunteers in the early childhood program to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 31. Weekly COVID-19 testing would be required for people granted an exemption.

Those two and older would also be required to wear masks, with some exceptions.

In court documents, LISD argued that if the mandates remained, they could see a drop in Head Start enrollment.

U.S. District Judge James "Wesley" Hendrix said his ruling only applies to Texas. Paxton and LISD had initially asked for a nationwide injunction. He also said, "it is undisputed that an agency cannot act without Congressional authorization."

Paxton said Friday's ruling means the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is not currently authorized to require near universal masking of children and staff.

"And they did not have the authority to force workers, staff members to get the vaccine," Paxton told Fox News. "That’s up to the individual to make the decision about their health."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott also praised the ruling in a Friday tweet, saying "another of Biden's vaccine and mask mandates was just halted by a federal judge in Texas."

Texas has also sued to stop federal vaccine requirements for federal contractors, health care workers, and large companies.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Louisiana has blocked the vaccine and mask requirement for Head Start programs in 24 other states.

The Texas Newsroom's Becky Fogel and Texas Tech Public Media's Sarah Self-Walbrick contributed to this report.

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