Despite the alarming rates of COVID-19 infection in some states, GOP officials continue to oppose masks and vaccine mandates. In Texas, despite data confirming the state makes up to 25% of all current COVID-19 cases in the country, Gov. Greg Abbott has issued a series of executive orders threatening legal action against government entities that implement a mask mandate.
But of course, not everyone in the state is as selfish as Abbott, who himself tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Tuesday. A Texas school district is pushing back on Abbott”;s anti-mask mandate in order to keep children safe through a clever loophole: They are making masks part of the dress code.
The Paris Independent School district amended its dress code to include masks for “;all employees and students to mitigate flu, cold, pandemic, and any other communicable diseases,”; The Paris News reported.
The amendment was approved 5-1 Tuesday, but is not permanent. It will be re-evaluated on a monthly basis. Approximately 4,000 students are enrolled in the district; students will return Thursday.
“;The Board believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the PISD dress code to protect our students and employees,”; a statement from the district read.
The statement noted that the governor”;s order did not suspend any part of the Texas Education Code, which allows board members to amend dress codes. “;The Texas Governor does not have the authority to usurp the Board of Trustees”; exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district,”; the statement continued.
According to The Washington Post, the Paris Independent School District appears to be the first school in the state to use its authority to set a dress code requiring students and employees to wear masks. The move sets a precedent for other school districts that have been looking for ways to implement masks without violating Abbott”;s measure.
The vote to implement masks into the school district”;s dress code comes the same day as Abbott”;s positive COVID test result. Since the start of the pandemic, Abbott has not only downplayed the risks to public health but has also fought mask mandates and issued executive orders barring officials from imposing them.
“;The path forward relies on personal responsibility–;not government mandates,”; the governor said in a statement announcing his mask ban. “;The State of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”;
His claim that implementing mask mandates takes away the rights and freedoms of individuals stems from anti-mask movements. Many parents have embraced this ideology, arguing against schools mandating children–;who are not able to receive the vaccine at this time–;to wear masks. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that all students–;even vaccinated students–;wear masks as they return to classrooms.
Disability Rights Texas and other advocacy organizations have filed federal lawsuits over the order on Tuesday, alleging that Abbott”;s move puts students with disabilities at risk.
In Texas especially, districts across the state are attempting to require masks despite Abbott”;s order due to a surge in cases and children posing a risk of spreading and bringing the virus home. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), more than 121,000 COVID-19 cases in children have been reported in the week ending Aug. 12, representing 18% of all new cases nationwide.
Conditions in Texas have gotten so bad that the state has requested five mortuary trailers from the federal government to store bodies, NBC News reported. Elective and nonurgent medical procedures are once again being delayed to free up beds for COVID-19 patients.Despite the strain of the state”;s hospitals and his own positive diagnosis, Abbott stays consistent in his views against implementing safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Texas is seeing record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant and the millions of people who remain unvaccinated. According to The Dallas Morning News, Texas health officials reported over 24,000 new cases on Tuesday, with over 12,000 current hospitalizations related to the virus.
As of this report, less than 50% of Texas residents are vaccinated.
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