Texas Court of Appeals ruling limits El Paso’s power over mask mandate


A Texas appeals court ruled ending most of the El Paso City Public Health Authority’s mask tenure, but allowed school districts and city-owned facilities to continue to require masks.

Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals on Friday ruled in an opinion shared by all three appellate judges to allow the city to maintain parts of its mask tenure, but sided with Gov. Greg Abbott to prevent local governments from widely enforcing mandates.

Judges have ordered that officials be allowed to demand masks in any school district in El Paso County.

As per the court order, the El Paso health authority will change the mask’s mandate for all school districts and any government facilities owned or operated by the municipality, city officials said in a statement.

“We continue to report new cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr Hector Ocaranza, city and county public health authority, said in a statement. “As we see the Delta variant, which is extraordinarily contagious, very active in our community, and now responsible for the increasing number of people infected in this region.”

He added: “Vaccination continues to be an essential and integral part of our response to the pandemic, along with other public health measures such as wearing masks indoors; and therefore, we beg those who have not yet been vaccinated to please get vaccinated. If you have not received your second dose, please go and get your second dose.

Health officials are also urging the public to continue to respect social distancing and frequent hand washing.

Judges’ decisions on orders

Judge Gina M. Palafox decided to leave the governor’s decree in force, except for schools and buildings belonging to the city.

Chief Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez has spoken in favor of keeping the temporary restraining order in effect.

Judge Jeff Alley has ruled to grant Abbott’s motion to withdraw the temporary restraining order.

As the majority of judges agreed to allow the city to impose masks on city-owned schools and businesses, they ordered that this remain in effect, while removing the temporary banning order on the city. remainder of Abbott’s decree.

They also allowed El Paso to require all city employees and visitors to city-owned or city-operated facilities to wear masks. The decision also allows the city to require masks on public transport operated by the city.

However, the judges also sided with the governor in not allowing the city to impose masks on any other building or business.

The executive order of Texas Governor Greg Abbott states that

Abbott issued an executive order on July 29 limiting local government responses to COVID-19, including restricting the application of mask warrants.

The decree stipulated that “no person can be compelled by a court to wear or oblige the wearing of a face covering”.

El Paso City Council voted on August 16 to allow the city attorney’s office to sue Abbott’s office for the executive order.

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Authorities then issued a county-wide mask warrant, which went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on August 17. The warrant required all residents of El Paso County over the age of 2 to wear a face cover over their nose and mouth inside.

In the city’s lawsuit against Abbott, Law No.7 County Court Judge Ruben Morales ruled on August 16 in favor of the city.

Morales ruled that Abbott’s executive order prohibiting local governments from issuing mask warrants exceeded the governor’s authority under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975.

He granted a temporary restraining order ending Abbott’s executive order restricting mask warrants.

State officials then lodged an appeal.

Abbott and state officials have argued that local ordinances cannot replace state ordinances due to the Texas Disaster Act of 1975.

The law “empowers (the governor) to issue decrees which have” the force and effect of law “,” state officials argued in their appeal.

State officials argued that the executive order “seeks to strike a balance between” the ability of Texans to preserve livelihoods “and” protect lives “by” the least restrictive means of combating it. evolution of the threat to public health “.”

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El Paso city officials countered that Abbott wanted the single authority to regulate mask requirements, but local oversight of mask warrants is “critical to his ability to respond effectively to the health crisis in the country. COVID-19 ”.

Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals judges then released their decision on Friday upholding parts of Abbott’s executive order, while allowing the city to have a warrant in schools and city-owned buildings.

State officials have not said whether they plan to appeal the decision of the Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals to the Texas Supreme Court.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Thursday in Abbott’s favor over a similar mask warrant issued by local government officials in San Antonio and Bexar County.

Aaron Martinez can be reached at 915-546-6249; [email protected]; @AMartinezEPT on Twitter.

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