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Governor Abbott Petitions Court to Strike Down Dallas County’s Mask Mandate

Texas governor Greg Abbott (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Republican governor Greg Abbott of Texas and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton jointly petitioned the Fifth Court of Appeals Wednesday to strike down Dallas County’s mask mandate, claiming it was an infringement on an earlier executive order prohibiting their requirement in the state by government entities or officials.

A statement from the governor’s office contended that Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins’s recent order allowing the city to mandate face coverings violates his last executive order (GA-38) and state law. It said GA-38 “has the force and effect of state law and supersedes local rules and regulations.” Jenkins had filed a temporary restraining order against Abbott’s mask-mandate ban, arguing it was not a “necessary action to combat the pandemic.”

“Under Executive Order GA-38, no governmental entity can require or mandate the wearing of masks,” Abbott said. “The path forward relies on personal responsibility — not government mandates. The State of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”

The release confirms that the Texas Disaster Act authorizes the governor to lead the state through emergencies such as the COVID pandemic. It affirmed that legal action will be pursued against any school district, public university, or local government official who disobeys Abbott’s directive.

“This isn’t the first time we have dealt with activist characters. It’s déjà vu all over again,” 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. I’m confident the outcomes to any suits will side with liberty and individual choice, not mandates and government overreach.”

Abbott’s announcement Wednesday comes after he threatened to impose financial penalties on local officials who enforce new mask mandates in defiance of his order. That executive order also specified that government entities cannot “compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization,” effectively banning state vaccine mandates.

However, it did encourage residents in parts of Texas with high transmission to “follow the safe practices they have already mastered,” such as wearing masks where social distancing is not feasible, in compliance with the CDC’s updated guidance.

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