Most populous Texas county defies governor with mask mandate

Most populous Texas county defies governor with mask mandate


HOUSTON (AP) — Texas’ most populous county on Thursday joined the legal battle by local officials seeking to override Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates and institute protections against COVID-19 as hospitals around the state continue to swell with patients sickened by the virus.

Harris County, where Houston is located, first filed a lawsuit against Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates by any state, county or local government entity. A few hours later on Thursday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the county health authority had issued an order requiring that people must wear masks when inside any public school, non-religious private school or licensed child care center in the county.

“Vaccination remains the primary way to protect our community from COVID-19. However, children 12 and under remain ineligible for the vaccine. At this point, public health interventions like masking, contact tracing and notifications in schools remain their only protection against this virus,” said Hidalgo, the top elected official in Harris County, which has 4.7 million residents and is the third most populous U.S. county.

Bexar, Dallas and Fort Bend counties along with San Antonio have also sued Abbot t and have been granted temporary restraining orders that for now let them put mask mandates in place in their communities.

The dispute over mask mandates in Texas comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to rise, increasing to 10,791 on Thursday, the most since Feb. 2. In the past month, hospitalizations have increased by 343%. State health officials reported 120 deaths on Thursday, the most since March 1.

“The current wave of the Delta variant presents a real and imminent threat to our most vulnerable populations, and local officials need to be able to...

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