Austin Requires Masks in All Public Schools, Including Colleges

Local orders push back against Abbott’s ban on mask mandates

Mayor Steve Adler speaks at a public event earlier this month. This week Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown issued local orders mandating face masks in public schools and county and city properties (Photo by John Anderson)

Earlier this week Austin and Travis County ordered that face masks are required at all public schools, as well as city and county properties including parks, effective as of yesterday (Aug. 12). Today, the orders were extended to public colleges within city and county limits.

That would include the University of Texas at Austin and most Austin Community College campuses, although a city spokesperson told reporters today that as state property UT-Austin would likely be exempt. On Monday, UT-Austin announced all students would be required to take a COVID-19 test before classes begin on Aug. 25 but that neither face masks nor vaccinations would be required.

Issued by Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown, the local orders are in direct defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s GA-38 executive order banning local governments from mandating face masks. The orders require all students, staff, and visitors to wear a face mask while on school buses or public school property – including public charter schools and public colleges – under Stages 3, 4, and 5 of Austin Public Health’s local COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines (Austin and Travis County are currently in Stage 5). On city and county property, face masks are required except when eating, drinking, or swimming, among other exemptions. Infants and toddlers under age 2 are exempt.

Austin’s orders come as local leaders across Texas continue to push back against Abbott’s increasingly dictatorial moves to thwart their efforts to do their jobs and, as normally allowed by state law, impose measures to protect public health as the COVID-19 pandemic resurges and wreaks havoc statewide. On Monday, Austin ISD issued its own mask requirements for all students, staff, teachers, and visitors while on district property. Earlier this week Dallas and Bexar counties were successful in their separate requests for temporary restraining orders halting the enforcement of Abbott’s ban on mask mandates.

In response, Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked the 5th Court of Appeals, based in Dallas, to strike down District Judge Tonya Parker’s ruling in favor of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, arguing it violates both GA-38 and the Texas Disaster Act, which grants the governor power to guide the state through emergencies. In March, Paxton lost a court challenge to Austin and Travis County on similar grounds, after Abbott rolled back statewide COVID-19 restrictions and declared Texas “open and free.”

Abbott responded in late July with GA-38, and he and Paxton have threatened to take any city, county, or school district that violates the order to court. “Under Executive Order GA-38, no governmental entity can require or mandate the wearing of masks,” said Abbott in an Aug. 11 press release. “The path forward relies on personal responsibility – not government mandates. The [s]tate of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”

In that same release, Paxton said, “Attention-grabbing judges and mayors have defied executive orders before, when the pandemic first started, and the courts ruled on our side – the law.” (He did not mention his defeat in the Austin case.) “I’m confident the outcomes to any suits will side with liberty and individual choice, not mandates and government overreach.”

As a reminder, COVID-19 vaccinations are free and require neither identification nor insurance. Locate providers in your area using vaccines.gov, or text your Zip Code to 438829 (822862 in Spanish) to find a nearby clinic.  Below you’ll find a list of pop-up vaccine clinics available to all eligible individuals without registration or appointments this weekend, Fri.-Sun., Aug. 13-15

Friday, Aug. 13

Ana Lark Center (Austin Public Health)
• Time: 1-7pm
• Address: 1400 Tillery St.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years)

Southeast Library (APH)
• Time: 3-8pm
• Address: 5803 Nuckols Crossing
• Vaccine: Moderna (18+ years only)

Little Walnut Creek Library (APH)
• Time: 3-8pm
• Address: 835 W. Rundberg Ln.
• Vaccine: Moderna (18+ years only)

Saturday, Aug. 14

Travis County Expo (Travis County)
• Time: 9am-5pm
• Address: 7311 Decker Ln.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years), Johnson & Johnson (18+ years only)

Ana Lark Center (APH)
• Time: 9am-4pm
• Address: 1400 Tillery St.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years)

Dailey Middle School (Travis County)
• Time: 9am-2pm
• Address: 14000 Westall St.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years), Johnson & Johnson (18+ years only)

Del Valle High School Opportunity Center (Travis County/APH)
• Time: 9am-2pm
• Address: 5301 Ross Rd., Del Valle
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years)

La Moreliana Meat Market (Travis County)
• Time: 9am-1pm
• Address: 5405 S. Pleasant Valley Rd. #E
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years), Johnson & Johnson (18+ years only)

Martin Middle School (Travis County)
• Time: 10am-2pm
• Address: 1601 Haskell St.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years), Johnson & Johnson (18+ years only)

Southeast Library (APH)
• Time: 10am-2pm
• Address: 5803 Nuckols Crossing Rd.
• Vaccine: Moderna (18+ years only)

Little Walnut Creek Library (APH)
• Time: 10am-2pm
• Address: 835 W. Rundberg Ln.
• Vaccine: Moderna (18+ years only)

Turner Roberts Recreation Center (APH)
• Time: 10am-2pm
• Address: 7201 Colony Loop
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years)

Video Super (APH)
• Time: 11am-2pm
• Address: 5310 S. Pleasant Valley Rd. #B
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years); Moderna, Johnson & Johnson (18+ years only)

Sunday, Aug. 15

Travis County Expo (Travis County)
• Time: 9am-5pm
• Address: 7311 Decker Ln.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years), Johnson & Johnson (18+ years only)

Hong Kong Supermarket (Travis County)
• Time: 10am-2pm
• Address: 8557 Research Blvd.
• Vaccine: Pfizer (12+ years), Johnson & Johnson (18+ years only)

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

COVID-19, GA-38 executive order, mask mandates, Greg Abbott, Steve Adler, Andy Brown, University of Texas at Austin, Austin Community College, Austin Independent School District, AISD mask mandate, Clay Jenkins, Ken Paxton, 5th Court of Appeals, Tonya Parker, Texas Disaster Act, Austin Public Health, COVID-19 Risk-Based Guidelines, Stage 5, COVID-19 vaccine clinics

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