Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced today (Friday, Sept. 10) that his office has filed lawsuits against Texas independent school districts who have implemented mask mandates as part of their efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-30, issued July 29, prohibiting any governmental entity or any “public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means, including grants, contracts, loans, or other disbursements of taxpayer money” from imposing either a vaccine mandate or a mask mandate.

An email from Paxton’s office says the AG has “filed three lawsuits against three school districts,” then goes on to list the targeted school districts as “Richardson, Round Rock, Galveston, Elgin, Spring and Sherman” ISDs.

The press release notes “several school districts across the state have refused to follow state law — the Texas Disaster Act and Executive Order GA-38 — which place the Governor in charge of the statewide response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” and that Paxton “anticipates” suing other school districts “other governmental entities” that “continue to defy state law.”

The press release quotes Paxton as saying, “Not only are superintendents across Texas openly violating state law, but they are using district resources — that ought to be used for teacher merit raises or other educational benefits — to defend their unlawful political maneuvering. If districts choose to spend their money on legal fees, they must do so knowing that my office is ready and willing to litigate these cases. I have full confidence that the courts will side with the law — not acts of political defiance.”

And the press release includes a list of 97 “governmental entities who have been reported as non-compliant with Executive Order GA-38.” (See that list here.) It includes both Dallas and Fort Worth ISDs and Dallas County.

In a statement issued at the time he issued executive order GA-38, Abbott said the executive order was intended to “provide clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State’s continued fight against COVID-19” and that it “emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates. Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19.”

Current COVI-19 statistics, however, do no support Abbott’s claim that Texans have mastered safe practices.

As of 4:45 p.m. today, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there have been 19,050 new confirmed cases and 4,195 new probable cases of COVID-19 in Texas, along with 400 newly-reported fatalities. “New” and “newly-reported” here mean within the previous 24-hour period.

HHS also estimates there are currently 308,340 active COVID-19 cases in the state. To date, there have been 58.332 known COVID-related fatalities in Texas. Of those known fatalities, 74 have occurred in children under the age of 19.

Also according to the DSHS, in hospitals statewide, there are currently (as of 4 p.m. today) 13,422 COVID-19 inpatients.  Of those 1,659 were admitted within the last 24 hours; 9,282 are adult patients in general beds, 3.834 are adults in ICU beds; 306 are pediatric patients; and 2,939 are on ventilators.

DSHS says that in Texas, there are 66,177 total staffed hospital beds and 61,990 total staffed inpatient beds. Out of that number — IN THE STATE — as of today, there are only 7,530 available staffed hospital beds, only 432 available staffed adult ICU beds and only 77 available staffed pediatric ICU beds. And there are only 6,171 available ventilators.

Statistics compiled by The New York Times list Texas has having a daily COVID-19 case average of 19,214, or 66 people for every 100,000 residents, a 16 percent increase over the last 14 days. There is an average of 14,393 people hospitalized daily with COVID-19 in Texas, which is up 1 percent over the last 14 days. Texas is averaging 231.9 deaths from COVID-19 daily.

Only 49 percent of the Texas population has been fully vaccinated.

— Tammye Nash