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Texas Supreme Court Sides With Governor Abbott, Blocks San Antonio Schools' Mask Mandate

HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — On August 26 the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked a mask mandate issued by San Antonio and Bexar County for their independent public schools — a move exactly opposite of what happened in a Dallas court one day before.

But the Supreme Court ruling was a blow to efforts by other Texas cities, counties and school districts to defy Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on such measures.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by San Antonio and Bexar County, one of at least nine that have been filed by cities, counties and school districts against Abbott over his ban on mask mandates. Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases that have overwhelmed many hospitals across the state, at least 10 counties and cities and 63 school districts or systems in Texas have imposed mask mandates to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Abbott has argued that a law known as the Texas Disaster Act gives him broad power in deciding how best to respond to emergency situations, including whether to ban mask mandates during a pandemic. In an emergency order issued last month, Abbott reaffirmed his ban on mask mandates by any state, county or local government entity.

The counties, cities and school districts say Abbott has exceeded his authority. Dallas and Harris counties, two of the state's most populous counties, are among those that have imposed mask mandates.

On August 25 a district court judge issued a temporary injunction on Abbott's order in Dallas County. The injunction allows a mask mandate instated by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins to continue, for now.

Last week, a judge granted Bexar County and San Antonio a temporary injunction that put Abbott's ban on hold pending trial in that lawsuit. The Texas Attorney General's Office asked the state high court to stay the injunction. The Texas Supreme Court had previously stayed temporary restraining orders issued in favor of Bexar County, San Antonio and Dallas County.

The court has not yet made a final determination on the legal issues surrounding mask mandates.

"The Texas Supreme Court has sided with the law, and the decision to enforce mask mandates lies with the governor's legislatively-granted authority. Mask mandates across our state are illegal," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement after the San Antonio decision.

In a statement on Facebook, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, "We're not going to let an ongoing court battle distract us from the real fight against COVID-19. Get the vax. Wear a mask."

Judges handling the lawsuits == like the one in Dallas == against Abbott have granted various temporary restraining orders and temporary injunctions that have allowed these mask mandates to continue while the cases go through the courts.

It was not immediately clear how those mandates would be impacted by the high court's Thursday ruling.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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