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County Judge issues mask mandate for public schools in Hays County

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra enacted a mask mandate for all public K-12 schools throughout the county. 

Becerra issued the executive order late Friday night, which goes into effect Sunday at 12:01 a.m. The county judge cited the Delta variant as reasoning behind his new mandate, which has spurred an increase in COVID-19 cases across the state.

“We are experiencing a health crisis emergency with rising hospitalizations, and limited bed space,” Becerra said in a statement. “I am concerned about the health and safety of our children and our hardworking faculty and staff members in our (school districts) and hospitals. This order is intended to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and free up hospital space.” 

Becerra’s mandate requires that a mask be worn by students, staff and visitors over 2 years old on school buses and on public school property.

Becerra’s decision comes as school districts across the state — including San Marcos Consolidated ISD — have enacted mask mandates, directly challenging an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott that prohibits schools from issuing face covering requirements.

Abbott issued executive order GA-38, which states that no governmental entity, including county, city, school district and public health authority may require any person to wear a face covering or mandate that other persons wear face coverings. 

The governor has promised to take any governmental entity that contradicts his order to court. 

“The path forward relies on personal responsibility — not government mandates,” Abbott said in a news release. “The State of Texas will continue to vigorously fight the temporary restraining order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans.”

Becerra, however, challenged the governor saying, “personal responsibility, undefined, as a disaster response strategy for an infectious disease pandemic is not working.”

In Hays County, the active coronavirus case count has increased 11 fold in the last six weeks, rising from 177 active cases on July 2 to 2,129 on Friday. According to the Hays County Local Health Department, there were 49 county residents hospitalized by COVID-19 as of Friday — 41 who were unvaccinated and eight who were fully vaccinated. 

Over 55% of Hays County residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus — 109,470 citizens out of an eligible 195,999 who are 12 years or older. Becerra, however, said that 70% of Hays County adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 are unvaccinated. 

“Children under 12 are not eligible for a vaccine at all,” Becerra said. “Masks are their only line of defense.” 

Becerra’s order applies to all public schools and public charter schools in Hays County. The full executive order can be read at https://hayscountytx.com/.

School begins at Dripping Springs ISD and Wimberley ISD on Aug. 17. Classes begin at Hays CISD on Aug. 19. The 2021-22 school year begins at SMCISD on Aug. 23. 

San Marcos Record

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