AUSTIN — Despite warnings from health experts and contradictory data, officials across the state are again attempting to forcibly mask citizens—and Republican state lawmakers continue to ignore the problem.

On Thursday, the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals allowed Houston-area Harris County officials to decree a mask mandate in places such as schools and county buildings, bucking Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order on the issue.

Abbott had previously enacted executive orders over the last two years that imposed mask mandates and closed businesses across Texas, but the situation flipped last July when he proclaimed a new executive order prohibiting mask mandates.

Local officials statewide responded by disregarding his order and enacting their own rules, as well as challenging his executive orders in court. The Democrat-majority 3rd Court of Appeals is the latest to side against Abbott.

“The Governor does not possess absolute authority under the Texas Disaster Act to preempt orders issued by local governmental entities or officials that contradict his executive orders,” said the opinion, written by Justice Chari Kelly.

“(The disaster act) does not give the governor carte blanche to issue executive orders empowering him to rule the state in any way he wishes during a disaster,” Kelly added.

The ruling will be appealed to the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court; however, the Republican-controlled state Legislature could have resolved the issue in early 2021 by passing a state law to ban mask mandates. They declined to act.

Furthermore, 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.”

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.