Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued an emergency order for mask requirements Wednesday, the day after securing a temporary restraining order against Gov. Greg Abbott's mask mandate ban.
The emergency order requires all child care centers, PreK-12 public schools and commercial entities to develop a health and safety policy, that must require, at a minimum, universal indoor masking.
Indoor masking will also be required inside all Dallas County buildings going forward. On Thursday, Jenkins updated the executive order and also required public institutions of higher education to mandate masks indoors.
The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, August 11, but it is already facing a legal challenge.
Hours after Jenkins signed the executive order Wednesday afternoon. Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the filing of a petition to "strike down Dallas County’s mask mandate."
“Under Executive Order GA-38, no governmental entity can require or mandate the wearing of masks,” said Governor Abbott in a press release. “The path forward relies on personal responsibility—not government mandates."
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In May, Governor Abbott's issued an executive order prohibiting "governmental entities and officials from mandating face coverings."
Tuesday, Dallas County District Judge Tonya Parker ruled Gov. Abbott's order prohibiting mask mandates is not a "necessary action to combat the pandemic."
It came after parents of 12 Dallas County students asked Judge Parker to allow local school districts to mandate masks.
"My daughter happens to be one of the medically-fragile children that's involved in this lawsuit who really thrives in class but who has medical issues and could really be put at risk if she gets COVID," said parent Melissa Griffith.
Jenkins announced the restraining order Monday as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued to surge across the county and North Texas. It came after Dallas ISD said it would require masks in spite of Abbott's executive order on Monday. Some other major Texas school districts, including Fort Worth ISD, followed suit on Tuesday.
In her ruling, 116th Civil District Court Judge Tonya Parker wrote, "immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result" if Jenkins cannot mandate mitigation measures against COVID-19.
She noted as part of Jenkins' role as county judge, he leads the government in providing safety protection for all citizens.
"The assertion that the Governor of the State of Texas doesn't have the authority to protect the rights and freedoms of Texans is just plain misguided," Abbott's office said in a statement provided to NBC 5. "Under Chapter 418, the Governor has full authority to issue executive orders that have the full force and effect of law in response to a disaster. This health disaster has continued to change, and so should our response. Texans have learned and mastered over the past year the safe practices to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID, and do not need the government to tell them how to do so."
Tuesday, Texas exceeded 10,000 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus, the highest such number since early February.
"The enemy is not each other. The enemy is the virus and we must all do all that we can to protect public health," Jenkins said. "School districts and government closest to the people should make decisions on how best to keep students and others safe."
The temporary restraining order expires Aug. 24.
It's unclear when Governor Abbott's petition will go before a judge.
Capacity limits for businesses were not included in Wednesday's order but Jenkins didn't rule out the possibility in the future.
Masks are also required in Dallas County buildings.
Under the order, businesses must develop and implement the health and safety policy within three calendar days. Failing to do so may result in a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation.