By Terrance Turner
August 12, 2021
Harris County Judge LIna Hidalgo is issuing a mask mandate for all public and private schools (excluding religious institutions).
“Effective immediately upon signing, the Local Health Authority for Harris County hereby imposes the following control measures on all public and non-religious private schools (‘School System’) offering instruction to students in any and all grades from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 and on all Licensed Child Care Centers offering child care and education (‘Child Care Centers’) in Houston and Harris County, for the 2021-2022 school year:
- School Systems and Child Care Centers within Harris County shall follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for universal indoor masking and require all students (age 2 and older), staff, teachers and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a face mask indoors while school property and school buses,” the order states.
- School Systems and child care centers must notify parents once a child comes into contact with a COVID-19 positive person on campus on during school events.
According to the Texas Tribune, Harris County is the fourth county to defy Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and issue a mask mandate. Dallas, Bexar, and Travis counties have also issued similar orders. Yesterday, Travis County and the City of Austin (located inside the County) ordered that masks be worn in public schools there. That same day, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued an order requiring all teachers, staff, students and visitors at any K-12 public school, child care center or “public institution of higher education” wear masks inside. On Tuesday, officials in Bexar County sued Abbott, seeking the power to impose a local mask mandate in their schools. Abbott has banned local counties from issuing mask orders.
Harris County also sued Abbott Thursday for the right to mandate mask-wearing in the state’s most populous county. Abbott “has repeatedly misused his authority under Texas disaster laws,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said in a statement. “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 respond to this crisis.”
The Houston Chronicle says that the week ending Aug. 10 saw an average of 40 children newly hospitalized per day — a 25-percent leap from the week before, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It marked the state’s highest hospital admissions rate for children in a year. The Tribune adds that from the start of the pandemic through Aug. 9, over 5,800 children in Texas have been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 783 children admitted to Texas hospitals with COVID-19 between July 1 and Aug. 9.
According to the White House COVID response team, Texas and Florida account for nearly 40% of new COVID-19 hospitalization cases nationwide:
UPDATE (10:25 pm): The Houston Independent School District Board of Trustees voted 8-0 tonight in favor of mask mandates. The mandate by HISD Superintendent Millard House III received unanimous support from the Board.
“The superintendent has concluded that requiring all students, staff and visitors to district campuses and facilities to wear masks while indoors and on school buses is in the best interest of the district by slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” the district’s agenda for Thursday night read. “During the upcoming 2021-2022 school year the need to take all reasonable precautions to combat the spread of the virus is necessary.”
Masks will not be required in HISD while eating or at other times; those with medical or religious exemptions will not have to comply with the order.