Aug 16 - Local officials in Texas who fought their governor over mask mandates said they would continue to require face coverings in schools despite a setback in the state Supreme Court.
The new manifestation of the political divide over how to beat back coronavirus comes as the Delta variant is leading a spike in new cases, including among children.
Texas' highest court ordered on Sunday to request two temporary lower court orders which allowed counties that are home to Dallas and San Antonio, the state's most populous cities after Houston, to require masks in schools. The lower court orders had overruled an order by Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
The local mask orders align with the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the Dallas Independent School DistrictDallas Independent School District welcomed students back to class on Monday for the start of the academic year, its website declared, We are still requiring that masks be worn while on district property.
Officials in Dallas County and San Antonio noted that the high court ruling allows them to make their legal case against the governor's permanent anti-mask mandate.
As of last week, Texas and seven other states with Republican governors — Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah — had passed laws or issued orders preventing local officials from making mask-wearing mandatory, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Many Republicans have said that wearing masks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus should be a personal choice, which in the case of school children should be decided by parents.
Ten states run by Democratic Governors — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington — and the District of Columbia requiring masks worn in schools, according to Pew.
The number of new COVID - 19 cases generated by the new, highly transmissible Delta variant jumped roughly 81% to 1.67 million cases in the United States in the past 14 days, according to a Reuters tally. The United States is inching towards 37 million cases since the pandemic began in early 2020.
The number of children hospitalized with COVID - 19 in the United States was 1,834 on Monday, after hitting a record high of 1,902 on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Children make up about 2.4% of the nation's COVID -19 hospitalizations currently. Children under 12 are not eligible to receive coronavirus vaccines, leaving them more vulnerable to infection from the new variant.
In response to the Texas High Court's ruling, Abbott said on Twitter: The ban doesn't prohibit wearing masks. Anyone who wants to wear a mask can do so, even in school.
The lower court order covering San Antonio had been due to expire on Monday without delay, the city said in a statement, so it has little practical effect.
The order was scheduled in Dallas County on Aug. 24 and expire on Aug. 24, according to the State Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile in New York City, governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday asked all healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID - 19 unless they have a medical or religious exemption.
A similar order was issued on Monday for the District of Columbia.