The Local Mask Mandate is Upheld by the 4th Court of Appeal; a Trial is Set For December

The 4th Court of Appeal upheld an interim ruling allowing mask regulations in schools and city and county-owned buildings, despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s appeal.

San Antonio and Bexar County were given a temporary injunction by Judge Antonia “Toni” Arteaga of the 57th Civil District Court on Monday, enabling the mask mandates in the city and county-owned buildings and schools to remain until a trial is held. The governor was sued by the city and county earlier this month over his authority to impose mask mandates.

On Abbott’s behalf, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an appeal with the district court, claiming that his appeal automatically halted the mask mandate in San Antonio and Bexar County. Despite their disagreements, city attorneys requested the 4th Court of Appeals on Tuesday to uphold the temporary order.

The 4th Court of Appeals reasoned in an opinion issued Thursday that enabling local governments to establish policies to safeguard public health maintained the status quo, whereas Abbott changed it with his executive order forbidding governmental organizations from requiring masks in July.

During the Monday hearing, both Dr. Junda Woo, the medical director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh testified. Both believe that mandating masks will aid in the prevention of the spread of the delta coronavirus, which is significantly more transmissible than previous coronavirus strains. They also highlighted the vulnerability of students under the age of 12 who have not yet received their coronavirus vaccination.

Based on the temporary injunction order and the evidence attached to the urgent motion, the appellate judges wrote that the City and County have illustrated that reinstating the trial court’s temporary injunction is necessary to avoid irreversible damage and preserve their rights during the proceedings of this accelerated appeal. The circumstances of this case are one-of-a-kind and, to be honest, unrivaled.

According to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, the judgment of the 4th Court of Appeal allows the municipal mask mandates to continue in effect until a trial on the original lawsuit is held on Dec. 13.