This afternoon, Bexar County Judge Antonia Arteaga, 57th Civil District Court ruled in favor of a request for a temporary injunction that allows Bexar County and the City of San Antonio, as well as local schools, to require masks in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales represented the County in the proceedings along with attorneys representing the City of San Antonio. The joint suit sought to challenge Governor Greg Abbott’s overreach of his authority under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 which has prohibited local community leaders from acting in the best interests of their communities during this public health disaster. In relevant part, the County and City argued that the Governor’s authority does not include the authority to suspend public health laws that would allow the County and City to impose masking requirements on its employees and visitors to its facilities, or local schools as a result of the resurgence of COVID-19 in Bexar County.
Since Governor Abbott signed Executive Order GA-36 on May 18, 2021, and Executive Order GA-38 on July 29, 2021, local governmental entities have been prohibited from mandating face coverings or restricting certain activities in response to COVID-19. Recently, Bexar County has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases attributed to the Delta variant. Local hospitals and emergency services are under great stress, made worse by the inability of local governments to mandate masks, especially by those who are unvaccinated. The County and City argued that but not for GA-38, each could have implemented proven mitigating measures which would have worked to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community and preserve local health resources.
During the hearing, Dr. Junda Woo, Metro Health’s Medical Director, testified that as the number of hospitalizations is once again on the rise, Bexar County has about 1,600 fewer hospital staff than in earlier COVID-19 surges. Additionally, pediatric hospitalizations continue grow by about 25 patients. Not all of those children have COVID-19, but some are also seriously ill with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) which, like COVID-19, is transmitted by respiratory droplets.
“In the still ongoing legal battle to keep Bexar County residents and our children safe from the effects of COVID-19 and the resurgence of infections as a result of the Delta variant, District Court Judge Arteaga granted a request for a temporary injunction sought by Bexar County and the City of San Antonio. I believe that today Judge Arteaga gave this matter great consideration and made a tremendously hard decision. Whether we agree or disagree, today reminded everyone that the public can have confidence in its legal system and in the members who practice in it and that in the end, the rule of law will prevail over politics or any other consideration. As we work together to try and alleviate the effects of the Delta variant in our community, I will continue to advocate for the health and safety or our local community. Please be safe for each other and for all of us,” said Gonzales.
A trial on the merits will be held in the near future.