TEMPLE, Texas — Texas schools will not be able to require masks this fall because, in short, Gov. Greg Abbott said so. The fact that he said so all the way back on May 18 does not change that.
In a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and other agency leaders briefed lawmakers on the current state of the pandemic, and how the country should address it. The CDC continues to recommend masks for the upcoming school year.
"We continue to recommend that schools implement layered prevention strategies to protect those who are not fully vaccinated and encourage vaccination for those who are eligible. Masks continue to be a critical part of these layered prevention strategies," Walensky said.
At the same time, the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with a statement saying, "all students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use."
The AAP said it made the recommendations for multiple reasons including:
- lack of a system to monitor vaccine status among students, teachers and staff
- potential difficulty in monitoring or enforcing mask policies for those who are not vaccinated; in the absence of schools being able to conduct this monitoring, universal masking is the best and most effective strategy to create consistent messages, expectations, enforcement, and compliance without the added burden of needing to monitor vaccination status
- possibility of low vaccination uptake within the surrounding school community
At the same time, none of these recommendations matter in the Lone Star State right now. School districts are still following the latest guidance from the Texas Education Agency which states:
"Per GA-36, school systems cannot require students or staff to wear a mask. GA-36 addresses government-mandated face coverings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other authority to require protective equipment, including masks, in an employment setting is not necessarily affected by GA-36. School systems must allow individuals to wear a mask if they choose to do so."
GA-36 is the executive order Gov. Abbott signed on May 18. That order states:
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; provided, however, that:
A. State supported living centers, government-owned hospitals, and government operated hospitals may continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings; and
B. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and any county and municipal jails acting consistent with guidance by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards may continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings.
6 News reached out to multiple local school districts Tuesday but none reported any talk at the district level of asking for more authority to require masks.