Despite warnings from health experts and contradictory data, school officials are again forcibly masking children in Texas—and Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican state lawmakers continue to ignore the problem.
Over the past few weeks, public school districts across the state—including in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and South Texas—have either continued or reinstated mask mandates on school campuses. Many administrators have cited a growing number of cases of the mild omicron variant as the reason to continue mask requirements, despite the fact that the spread happened during the mask requirements.
The fight over forced face coverings is currently tied up in court and traces back to last year, when Gov. Abbott and local officials began feuding over who has authority to impose such orders. Abbott, who had previously enacted executive orders to force masks and shut down businesses, flipped last July and proclaimed a new executive order prohibiting mask mandates.
However, in response, local officials across Texas disregarded his order, enacted their own rules, and sued the governor. Earlier this month, the Democrat-majority 3rd Court of Appeals was the latest to side against Abbott, but the case is being appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
In the meantime, school administrators are doing as they wish. On Tuesday, Texas Scorecard reached out to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and asked for the latest update on the issue as well as what he is doing while the litigation unfolds, but his office did not respond by publication time. Paxton has maintained a list of noncompliant school districts on the AG website and encourages citizens to contact his office, but the effect on administrators remains unclear.
Furthermore, Abbott and the Republican-controlled state Legislature could have resolved the issue a year ago by passing a state law to ban mask mandates. They declined to act, however, and Abbott has repeatedly refused to add the issue to a special legislative session.
Health experts have warned against forced masking, particularly on children, and the Center for Disease Control even released a study in 2020 detailing that masks were not effective in stopping the spread of the flu (a virus similar in size to the coronavirus).
“There’s no evidence that a mask mandate was effective in stopping the cases from spreading. … And, in fact, there is evidence, as [a fellow doctor] cited, that the people in the United States at a very high frequency had been wearing masks for months and the cases exploded,” said Stanford University’s Dr. Scott Atlas. “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.”
“Children should not wear face masks, no. They don’t need it for their own protection, and they don’t need it for protecting other people, either,” said Dr. Martin Kulldorff, a biostatistician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The Irish Health Authority, after conducting a report on the subject last year, even called the forced masking of kids “child abuse.” The CDC also said earlier this month that cloth masks provided the “least protection” against the virus.
Concerned Texans may contact their state representative, senator, or the governor.