A district judge in Texas has allowed Austin and the surrounding Travis County to keep requiring masks, weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott ended the state’s mask mandate.
A state District Judge Lora Livingston denied the state’s request on Friday to quash a local order allowing officials to keep enforcing mask-wearing in Austin and Travis County. She ruled that the state did not meet “its burden to demonstrate the right to the relief it seeks,” according to a decision letter.
Mr. Paxton is expected to appeal the ruling, which means that officials could be forced to lift the mandate later.
Still, some local officials took the judge’s ruling as a victory, extending the amount of time the county can require customers and employees to wear masks inside businesses.
“Today’s court ruling allowing the Health Authority’s rules to remain in place and keep the mask requirements for businesses puts the health and safety of our public above all else during this pandemic,” the Travis County judge, Andy Brown, said in a statement on Friday.
Mr. Abbott, a Republican, lifted the mandate on March 10 and said that all businesses in the state could operate with no capacity limits, even as the state’s vaccinations trailed the national average. The move was met with sharp criticism from President Biden, who called the lifting of statewide mask mandates “a big mistake” that reflected “Neanderthal thinking.”
The ending of the mandate also frustrated some frontline workers in Texas who said they were worried about the risk of being exposed to maskless customers and crowds, even though they had not been vaccinated yet.
Reported coronavirus cases and deaths have steadily dropped nationwide after a post-holiday surge, though progress is starting to stall and health officials have warned about the spread of more contagious variants. The United States is still reporting an average of 60,000 new cases each day, according to a New York Times database.