DALLAS — Editor's note: On Sunday, Aug. 15, the Texas Supreme Court upheld Gov. Greg Abbott's executive ban on mask mandates that will nullify the mask order in Dallas County.
Dallas County issued an emergency mask order Wednesday following a judge's ruling that local leaders could require masks as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19. An executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott previously prevented mask mandates.
Face masks will be required inside most businesses, schools and Dallas County buildings. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins signed the order Wednesday afternoon.
"The most important thing, obviously, is that everyone gets vaccinated as soon as possible," Jenkins said during the announcement Wednesday afternoon.
What to know about the new mask order:
- Order goes into effect Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.
- Masks required indoors for all teachers, staff, students and visitors regardless of vaccination status except children under 2 years old
- Mask requirement applies to public institutions of higher education
- All businesses which serve the public must require face masks indoors for visitors and employees. Business employees and Dallas County employees are exempt from the mask requirement if they are alone in their office.
- Face masks are required in all Dallas County buildings, regardless of vaccination status
Rules for businesses
Businesses that fail to comply within three calendar days may result in a fine not to exceed $1,000 for each violation, Jenkins said. They must post signage of the face mask requirement.
Employees who do not interact with the public do not have to wear a mask if they are alone in their offices.
Rules for schools
Schools must require masks indoors for students from pre-K through 12th grade. They're also required at all child care centers, except for children 2 years old and under.
The mask order was extended to include public institutions of higher education, and requires all teachers, staff, students and visitors to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status.
Abbott files petition
Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a petition in the 5th Court of Appeals to block Jenkins's mandate, claiming that the governor's authority from the Texas Disaster Act gives him authority, the governor's office announced Wednesday afternoon.
"Any school district, public university, or local government official that decides to defy the order will be taken to court," a news release from the governor said.
On Tuesday, a Dallas County district judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Abbott's ban on mask mandates, which had kept government entities, including schools, from implementing mask mandates.
Dallas County officials reported Tuesday that there are only two pediatric ICU beds in 19 counties in North Texas. The delta variant of COVID is a widespread issue in the county as students head back to the classroom for the new school year, Judge Clay Jenkins said. Vaccines are not currently available to children under 12.
Across the North Texas region, there were 55 children hospitalized with the virus this week.
In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for Abbott said the governor's office is "working to protect Texas children and those most vulnerable among us, but violating the Governor's executive orders - and violating parental rights - is not the way to do it."
"Governor Abbott has been clear that the time for mask mandates is over; now is the time for personal responsibility," the spokesperson said. "Parents and guardians have the right to decide whether their child will wear a mask or not, just as with any other decision in their child's life."
On Tuesday, Fort Worth ISD joined Dallas ISD and Austin ISD in defying Abbott's executive order that banned mask requirements.
Cook Children's daily average cases have climbed to around 80, the highest since January. As of Friday, Cook Children's had 23 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
Children's hospitals in North Texas were over 97% capacity, health officials said Monday.