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Texas Supreme Court temporarily reinstates Abbott's ban on mask mandates

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The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday sided with Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Attorney General Ken Paxton, temporarily blocking San Antonio and Bexar County from implementing a mask mandate.

At the request of Abbott and Paxton, the court granted a stay on the injunction issued by a lower court that permitted the mask mandate to move forward despite the governor's executive order banning public entities from implementing such requirements, KSAT-TV reports.

"The Texas Supreme Court has sided with the law, and the decision to enforce mask mandates lies with the governor's legislatively-granted authority," Paxton said in a statement praising the decision. "Mask mandates across our state are illegal, and judges must abide by the law. Further non-compliance will result in more lawsuits."

However, the matter is not concluded. The state supreme court must now review the case before deciding whether Abbott's order was legal.

"While I am personally disappointed in the order handed down today by the Texas Supreme Court, I will continue to do all that I can to fight for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Bexar County," Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said. "We are continuing to work with the City of San Antonio to determine the next steps in light of the order issued today."

Earlier in August, Bexar County sued the Abbott administration, arguing the governor overstepped his bounds by barring local governments, schools, and other public entities from issuing mask requirements to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. District Court Judge Toni Arteaga, ruling in favor of the county, issued an injunction against Abbott's order, saying that schoolchildren were vulnerable given a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Bexar County.

Abbott and Paxton appealed the case to the state supreme court after the Fourth Court of Appeals upheld the injunction last week on Aug. 19.

The County's lawyers have argued that the governor's executive orders contradict Texas Health and Safety Code, which gives local health officials the power to enact restrictions including mask requirements for public health reasons.

The governor's administration counters that the governor has the authority to issue a prohibition on mask mandates under the Texas Disaster Act. The administration further argues that localized mask mandates are adding to "statewide confusion arising from the multiple, conflicting orders that courts at all levels of the judiciary have issued in the past several weeks."

Aside from Bexar County at large, several local San Antionio area school districts have enacted their own mask requirements in violation of Abbott's order, which according to KSAT-TV could remain in effect until they are challenged in court as well.

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