Despite the growing number of COVID-vaccinated individuals in Texas, local officials across the state are again trying to force all citizens to obey old rules that didn’t work the first time.

On Tuesday, the Williamson County District Court’s office, located in a suburb of Austin, announced they will require “all individuals coming to the [County] Justice Center, including the public and employees, … to wear face coverings and observe social distancing at all times in public spaces of the Justice Center unless otherwise noted.”

They added that judges “have the discretion to remove the mask requirement for participants in their individual courtroom.”

Officials across the state are also trying similar decrees again. On Monday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner enacted a similar mask mandate for all city employees on city properties, and last week, Austin Mayor Steve Adler even wanted to force citizens to get injected with COVID vaccinations.

“I am today asking the City Manager to require city employees to be vaccinated (subject only to appropriate exceptions). Further, I urge Austin businesses also to require their employees to become vaccinated. We must all lead by our own example.”

Adler added that if he could, he’d force all citizens in the city—including vaccinated individuals—to wear masks again.

However, the glaring overall problem is that all of these proposed and enacted rules contradict Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent executive order, which specifically prohibits local officials across the state from mandating vaccines or masks on citizens.

“No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization … 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 mandate that another person wear a face covering,” reads Abbott’s order from last week.

Additionally, Abbott’s order states that if local officials still tried to extort citizens into vaccines or masks, they would be “subject to a fine up to $1,000.”

Because of the governor’s order, Mayor Adler has not tried to force his proposed mandates on citizens, but Houston Mayor Turner and the Williamson County District Court are moving ahead, with the county saying they have the authority as a “separate branch of government.”

“We are aware of the Governor’s recent order regarding mask mandates and Governor Abbott‘s executive orders have been considered in making these very important decisions,” reads their press release. “The Courts are unique in that the judicial system is a separate branch of government. The Supreme Court of Texas has general responsibility for the efficient administration of the Texas judicial system and the authority to make rules of administration applicable to the courts.”

The district court office also cited an emergency order from the Texas Supreme Court and an opinion from the Texas attorney general as justification for forcing masks.

The resurrected mask mandates come after Gov. Abbott dropped the statewide requirement in early March, which some feared would spark an outbreak of the virus. However, in the subsequent weeks and months, coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths plummeted, and new cases dropped to record lows.

On top of that, the Center for Disease Control released a study in May 2020 systemically reviewing data regarding face masks and the spread of the flu, a virus that “has similar size to [the coronavirus],” and “found no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”

“There’s no evidence that a mask mandate was effective in stopping the cases from spreading. … And, in fact, there is evidence, as [a colleague doctor] cited, that the people in the United States at a very high frequency have been wearing masks for months, and the cases exploded,” said Stanford University’s Dr. Scott Atlas at a roundtable discussion last year. “Whether it’s in certain states like Hawaii, Minnesota … you could look at all the data. So this has sort of become folklore—one of the many obsessions—and it’s been harmful.”

Gov. Abbott has yet to publicly comment on the local officials’ actions, but concerned citizens may contact their elected officials.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.

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