Top Austin Headlines of 2021: Abbott’s Anti-Mask Moves Spur Revolts

July 29: Gov. Greg Abbott issues executive order GA-38, which prohibits local governments from mandating face masks to combat the spread of COVID-19

AISD first day of classes (Photo by John Anderson)

Amid an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 over the summer, Texas state leadership bucked public health advice for the umpteenth time in the course of the pandemic. At the end of July Gov. Greg Abbott issued his statewide GA-38 executive order banning local governments from mandating face masks, even as the highly transmissible Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy pummeled hospitals and intensive care units across the state.

Cities, counties, and school districts across the state, including in areas controlled by Republicans, decided they'd take their chances in court against Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown each issued their own orders (which unlike Abbott's have precedent in Texas law) requiring that masks be worn indoors, including on public school campuses. As most Texas students returned to in-person learning in August, Austin ISD joined Houston- and Dallas-area schools in defying Abbott by requiring all students, teachers, staff, and visitors to wear face masks while on school property. In her decision to mandate masks, AISD Superinten­dent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said, "If I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we have been overly cautious, not that we have fallen short."

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Top 10s 2021, Greg Abbott, COVID-19, mask mandates, GA-38 Executive Order, COVID-19 Delta variant, Ken Paxton, Austin Independent School District, Stephanie Elizalde, Andy Brown, Steve Adler

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