A district court judge in Texas on Friday refused to grant the state’s attorney general a restraining order that would force Austin and Travis County to discontinue enforcing their mask mandates, according to officials and reports.
Travis County district court judge Lora Livingston, during a Friday hearing, decided to set a March 26 trial on the matter, effectively allowing Austin to continue enforcing mask-wearing for at least another two weeks, according to the Austin-American Statesman.
“People have been wearing masks for a year. I don’t know that two more weeks is going to matter one way or the other,” Livingston said, according to the outlet.
Travis County judge Andy Brown confirmed the fact that the mask mandate remains in effect following Friday’s hearing.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Austin-Travis County on Thursday over its refusal to heed an order by Gov. Gregg Abbott that rescinded the statewide mask-wearing mandate.
“I told Travis County & The City of Austin to comply with state mask law. They blew me off. So, once again, I’m dragging them to court,” Paxton said in a tweet on March 11, adding, “Adler will never do the right thing on his own. His obstruction won’t stop me from keeping TX free & open!”
On Wednesday, Paxton sent a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County judge Andy Brown, giving them a deadline of Wednesday at 6 p.m. to rescind their local order or else he would sue.
“Over the past 24 hours, Travis County and City of Austin officials announced that local orders requiring individuals to wear face masks while outside their homes will continue unabated, despite the issuance of Governor Abbott’s executive order GA-34, which states that as of today, ‘no person may be required by any jurisdiction to wear or to mandate the wearing of a face covering,'” Paxton wrote.
Adler and Brown insist the local order, issued last week by interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott, still stands. The order calls on anyone 10 years or older to wear masks outside their home and calls on businesses to require people to wear facial coverings inside their establishments.
In remarks to CBS Austin on Thursday, Adler said he believes the local order is both lawful and necessary.
“It’s not my order that has standing. It’s the health authority’s rules that by ordinance are enforceable,” Adler told the outlet. “I think that follows directly from state law that says health authority rules can be enforceable to protect the public health. I think the governor has broad powers, but I don’t think those powers extend to waiving any state law that he wants to waive.”
In declining to award the temporary restraining order that Paxton sought, Livingston said a piecemeal approach to the issue is not optimal and instead both sides should prepare for a big hearing and present their arguments at the upcoming trial.
Paxton, in his letter, expressed confidence that the case would ultimately go his way: “We have already taken you to court under similar circumstances. You lost. If you continue to flout the law in this manner, we’ll take you to court again and you will lose again.”