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Controversy over Texas mask mandate ban heats up

Child COVID cases soar as schools debate mask mandates
Child COVID cases soar as schools debate mask... 02:28

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a series of steps Monday to battle the alarming surge in COVID-19 cases in the state, CBS Houston station KHOU-TV reported. But the controversy over his ban on localities issuing mask mandates got even hotter.

Abbott asked hospitals to postpone elective procedures to make room for COVID patients, said Texas would bring in out-of-state medical personnel to boost staffing at hospitals, and directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to open five more COVID-19 antibody infusion centers around the state. They treat patients who don't need hospitalization with therapeutic drugs.

Abbott also urged people to get vaccinated. "The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and it is our best defense against this virus," he said.

LBJ Hospital in Houston said it's "in crisis mode," with its Intensive Care Unit at 100% capacity. Sixty-three percent of those patients have COVID. The hospital is putting up tents to help with the overflow but said it doesn't have enough staff to operate them.

LBJ and several other major Houston hospitals have already postponed elective surgeries.

But Abbott isn't budging on the mask mandate ban. It includes all government entities and public schools, but the Houston Independent School District is voting on a mask mandate this week, and the Dallas Independent School District has instituted a temporary one.

With the first day of classes less than a week away for many across Texas,  there's a growing call for districts to defy Abbott's order and mandate masks in school, CBS Austin affiliate KEYE-TV reported. Austin schools will have a mask mandate as of Wednesday.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is suing Abbott over mask rules, CBS Dallas reported.

The station noted that Jenkins issued a statement saying, "The enemy is not each other. The enemy is the virus and we must all do all that we can to protect public health. School districts and government closest to the people should make decisions on how best to keep students and others safe."

CBS Dallas also reports that the Texas Senate Education Committee was to hold a public hearing Tuesday morning on a bill that would allow school districts to provide online or virtual learning while still receiving full funding per student.

As of now, most school districts across the state aren't offering that as an option because they would receive less funding per student from the state.

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