State District Judge Tonya Parker, a Democrat, said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, another Democrat, is likely to prevail in his lawsuit against Abbott’s ban, and said Jenkins has the power to mandate face coverings and other strategies aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Parker said in her ruling that the citizens of Dallas County would suffer “immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage” if Jenkins did not have the ability to enact such measures.
State District Judge Antonia Arteaga, another Democrat, also ruled in favor of local authorities in issuing a temporary restraining order against the statewide ban.
San Antonio and Bexar County Medical Director Dr. Junda Woo quickly issued a mask mandate in schools for anyone age 2 or older, while San Antonio Manager Erik Walsh announced that all city facilities will require masks.
“Having the authority, at least for the short term, hopefully for the long term, to require masks in schools will help protect the children, help protect the teachers and administrators, and help protect the parents when the child comes home not bringing the COVID to them,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, a Democrat, told a press conference.
Jenkins said he was going to solicit feedback from health, education, and business leaders in the county. He expected to issue an emergency order on Wednesday morning.
Abbott, a Republican, in May barred local governments and schools from requiring masks indoors. That came several days after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks, prompting the rollback of mask mandates across the country.
But federal officials reversed course late last month, alleging fully vaccinated people can transmit the virus to others in rare cases.
The two rulings on Tuesday are temporary. The judges could ultimately rule against the counties, or for them. A full hearing on the San Antonio and Bexar County lawsuit is set for Monday. A hearing in the other case is scheduled for Aug. 24.
In a statement sent to news outlets, Abbott’s press secretary said the governor will ultimately prevail.
“Governor Abbott’s resolve to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans has not wavered,” she said. “There have been dozens of legal challenges to the Governor’s executive orders all of which have been upheld in the end. We expect a similar outcome when the San Antonio trial court’s decision is reviewed by the appellate courts.”