Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

UPDATE: Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is taking the same stance as DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. He said the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t apply to him and the county mask mandate remains in place.

“The Tex Supreme Court did not strike down my face mask order,” Jenkins tweeted. “Rather they removed the stay on the GA 38. Unless I receive a ruling requiring otherwise, I will amend my order to remove the possibility of fines on non-compliant businesses but otherwise leave the order in effect.”

According to NBC5, the court’s ruling is temporary until a court can hear the case. In another tweet, he said he expected to win the hearing.

“Tex Supreme Court narrowly ruled, staying only the TRO against Gov. Abbott but allowing the temporary injunction hearing to go forward,” Jenkins tweeted. “We won’t stop working with parents, doctors, schools, business + others to protect you and intend to win that hearing.”

UPDATE: Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Michael Hinojosa announced during a virtual press conference tonight (Sunday, Aug. 15), that despite a temporary order issued earlier in the day upholding Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting mask mandates in public spaces (such as state government offices and public schools), DISD will continue to enforce its rule, put in place early last week, requiring teachers, students and visitors on DISD campuses to wear masks, according to NBC Channel 5.

After consulting with the district’s attorneys, Hinojosa said DISD officials do not believe the Texas Supreme Court’s order applies to DISD. He noted that the order specifically mentioned Dallas County and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins (it also applies to Bexar County NBC notes), the court’s order did not specifically mention DISD.

“We have to protect the health and safety of our students and until there’s an official order of the court that applies the Dallas Independent School District, we will continue to have the mask mandate,” the superintendent said.

ORIGINAL POST: In a move that surprises no one, the Texas Supreme Court today issued an order temporarily lifting mask mandates issued last week by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas and Austin independent school districts among others, according to a report by The Texas Tribune.

Dallas and Austin ISDs, along with Fort Worth, Grand Prairie and other school districts, last week issued mandates requiring masks be worn on their campuses in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order prohibiting such mandates in public spaces and buildings (private businesses, of course, can require masks on their premises regardless).

Jenkins had named Abbott as a defendant in a countersuit he filed against Dallas County Precinct 2 Commissioner J.J. Koch, who had sued Jenkins after being banned from Commissioners Court meetings for refusing to mask up. A group of Dallas parents, including Laura and Deanna McFerrin Hogan, had intervened in Jenkins’ countersuit, and both Jenkins and the intervenors had asked for and received a restraining order from Dallas County District Court Judge Tonya Parker enjoining Abbott’s executive order.

Harris County Attorney Christain Menefee had also filed suit on behalf of his county challenging Abbott’s executive order, and had joined in asking a Travis County district judge to enjoin that order. That request had also been granted.

In Tarrant County, however, a district judge had sided with a group of four parents who had gone to court to stop Fort Worth ISD’s newest mask mandate.

Indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton then submitted a writ of mandamus to the Texas Supreme Court asking that the court uphold Abbott’s executive order and enjoin the mask mandates put in place by Jenkins and the school districts. When the court issued its ruling, Paxton — currently under investigation by the FBI over allegations of abuse of office — said in a tweet: “Let this ruling serve as a reminder to all ISDs and Local officials that the Governor’s order stand,” the Tribune noted. But, the newspaper added, Abbott’s response was “less pointed, specifying that his executive order does not prohibit mask-wearing.” Abbott tweeted, “Anyone who wants to wear a masks can do so.”

The Supreme Court’s order in Abbott’s ongoing battle to stop mask mandates comes six days after the  Republican governor told the Texas Department of State Health Services to use staffing agencies to bring in additional medical staff from outside the state — some sources indicating he asked for as many as 2,500 additional medical providers — to help stop the current surge of COVID-19 infections being fueled by the Delta variant and a lagging vaccination rate here. Abbott also asked the Texas Hospital Association to have  hospitals postpone all elective medical procedures voluntarily.

According to information from the Texas Department of State Health Services, last updated at 1:10 p.m. today (Sunday, Aug. 15), there have been 2,808,388 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 53,091 confirmed  fatalities from the disease in Texas since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, 18 and a half months ago.

DSHS data also shows that there have been 4,209 new confirmed cases, another 889 new probable cases and 43 new reported fatalities (“new” meaning within the previous 24 hours) at 1:10 p.m. today.

Data indicates that the vast majority of the new infections are among those who have not been vaccinated, although there are some — called “breakthrough” infections — in people who have had the vaccine. Data indicates that only between 0.01 percent and 5 percent of the new infections in this current surge are occurring in fully vaccinated individuals. And most vaccinated individuals who do become infected have significantly less severe cases than seen in unvaccinated patients.

Currently, there is no COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in children under the age of 12. While there were few cases seen in children the first waves of COVID-19, the number of infections seen in children is steadily increasing as the Delta variant wave continues to to sweep across the country.

— Tammye Nash