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For the first time in Texas ’mask wars, Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing six school districts that have defied Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on local masking orders.
Paxton on Friday sued the Elgin, Galveston, Richardson, Round Rock, Sherman and Spring school districts for requiring students, teachers, school staff and visitors to put on coatings when they were at their facilities, which which he called “illegal political maneuvers.”
“If districts decide to spend their money on legal fees, they should do so knowing that my office is prepared and willing to litigate these cases,” Paxton said in a statement. “I have full confidence that the courts will side with the law, not the acts of political defiance.”
Dozens of school districts across the state have challenged Abbott and issued mask warrants. It was not immediately clear at the end of Friday why Paxton chose the six districts he sued.
The governor’s executive order prohibits local officials from forcing people to wear masks. To date, Abbott and Paxton have been in defense, as several school districts, cities and counties in the state’s major metropolitan areas have demanded the order or ignored it.
Frequently asked questions about vaccines
Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas?
All people over the age of 12 meet the requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine in Texas. Children ages 12 to 17 can get the Pfizer vaccine, but COVID-19 vaccines are not mandatory for Texas students.
Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
State and local health officials say the supply of vaccines is healthy enough to meet demand in much of Texas. Most of the chain’s pharmacies and many other independent ones have a ready supply of the vaccine, which is administered free of charge and mainly on foot. Many private medical offices also have them. And you can check out the current lists of great vaccination centers that still operate here. Public health departments also have vaccines. You can sign up for the Texas Public Health Vaccine Program online or by phone. And companies or civic organizations can set up their vaccine clinics to offer them to business people, visitors, customers or members.
Should I still get the vaccine if I had COVID-19?
Yes. Medical experts recommend that people who have had COVID-19 continue with the vaccine. If someone’s treatment includes monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, they should talk to their doctor before scheduling an appointment with the vaccine. The CDC recommends that people who received these treatments wait 90 days before receiving the vaccine.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
Yes. Health experts and public officials broadly agree that the vaccine is safe. The three currently approved vaccine manufacturers – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – reported that their vaccines are 95%, 94% and 72% effective, respectively, to protect people from serious illness. Although no vaccine has side effects, clinical trials by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson show that severe reactions are rare.
More answers here.
Some 85 school districts and six counties have instituted some sort of mask warrants in defiance of Abbott’s ban, citing the need to protect schoolchildren too young to get the vaccine amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID- 19.
The legal push between the Republican leadership of the state and local officials has led to a rule of thumb on the use of masks across the state as judges defend, revoke, and reinstate the various requirements, creating confusion for Texans about if they or their children must wear a mask.
Abbott had asked Texas lawmakers to send him a bill that would permanently allow school officials to require students, teachers and other school employees to use coatings. But the prospect never gained strength in the legislature.
Abbott and Paxton have for weeks threatened local governments and public schools that adopted masking rules with legal action, a threat Paxton complied with this week.
Round Rock Independent School District officials did not comment on the lawsuit, but said in a statement that the mask requirement helps their schools stay open.
“We are working closely with our local health authorities in Williamson and Travis counties, who advise us that masks remain an essential tool to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our classrooms,” ISD officials from Round Rock said.
Spring Independent School District officials have yet to see Paxton’s lawsuit Friday, they said in a statement, and only learned of it through a press release from the attorney general’s office.
“Spring ISD will allow the judicial process to unfold and allow the courts to decide the merits of the case,” officials said.
Richardson Independent School District officials declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
The rest of the school districts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In at least one lawsuit filed Thursday evening, Paxton asked a Galveston County judge to temporarily suspend the mandate of the Galveston ISD mask, arguing that Abbott has the power to overturn local emergency orders.
Abbott’s order “has the force and effect of state law and must be followed, regardless of whether local officials agree to it,” Paxton wrote in the lawsuit.
However, neither Abbott nor Paxton have the power to enforce the governor’s ban on their own, they have argued in court documents.
In addition, the Texas Education Agency does not require schools to comply with Abbott’s ban. This move so far has led the Biden administration to leave Texas out of a federal investigation into a group of states that have prevented school districts from enforcing masks.
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