If Texas Businesses Are Free To Require Face Masks, Why Can’t They Require Proof of Vaccination?
The Texas Supreme Court yesterday restored Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on local face mask mandates, which had been blocked by lower courts in cases brought by Dallas and Bexar counties. The Dallas Independent School District, which began the school year today, nevertheless is requiring all staff and students to wear masks, saying the Supreme Court’s order, which remains in force until the cases are resolved, does not apply to it.
Meanwhile, private businesses remain free to require masks, but a state law bars them from requiring proof of vaccination. Cruise lines that operate out of Galveston nevertheless are requiring vaccine documentation from passengers, saying they are exempt from that rule.
This confusing situation involves disputes about Texas law, the effectiveness of mask mandates, the propriety of requiring vaccines that have been only provisionally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the conflict between Abbott’s preferences and federal guidelines, and the meaning of “freedom.” Let’s take those one at a time.
An executive order that Abbott issued on July 29 says “no governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering.” Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans, argue that the governor’s ban on mask mandates is authorized by the Texas Disaster Act of 1975.
“During a state of disaster and the following recovery period,” that law says, “the governor is the commander in chief of state agencies, boards, and commissions having emergency responsibilities.” Among other things, “the governor may control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area and the movement of persons and the occupancy of premises in the area.” The statute also says “the governor may suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business or the orders or rules of a state agency if strict compliance with the provisions, orders, or rules would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster.”
The local officials who object to Abbott’s order say it exceeds his authority under the Texas Disaster Act. San Antonio and Bexar County argue that “the Governor’s power to suspend laws during a disaster under the statute does not extend to the public health laws that allow the City and County to impose masking requirements on its own employees and members of the public who visit City and County-owned facilities.” They say the law “gives the governor authority to suspend statutes and regulations governing state officials and agencies, but not the statutes giving local governments the authority to manage public health within their own jurisdictions.”
The Texas Supreme Court seems inclined to side with Abbott in this dispute about statutory interpretation. But because its order names Dallas County rather than the Dallas Independent School District, school officials maintain that it does not affect their mask mandate. “Until there’s an official order of the court that applies to the Dallas Independent School District, we will continue to have the mask mandate,” Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said yesterday. “After a court rules, then I will comply, if it’s not in my favor.”
The latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend “indoor masking for all individuals age 2 years and older,” regardless of their vaccination status, in schools and child care facilities. But the evidence that “universal masking” in K–12 schools has played an important role
Article from Latest – Reason.com