Mask-wearing is now required in Dallas public schools and businesses after Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Wednesday became the latest local official to defy Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on local mask orders.
“We are all team public health and the enemy is the virus,” Jenkins said. “Right now, the enemy is winning.”
The move comes a day after a state district judge in Dallas temporarily blocked Abbott’s ability to enforce his executive order prohibiting cities, counties and school districts from requiring residents to wear masks.
Officials in San Antonio and Bexar County won a similar legal battle Tuesday — and quickly ordered school districts to require mask-wearing in schools.
Jenkins went further than other local Texas leaders have in recent weeks. As of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, all Dallas County public schools, child care centers and businesses must require mask-wearing. However, only businesses will be fined — up to $1,000 — for violating the order, Jenkins said.
The move comes as the highly contagious delta variant fills Texas hospitals with a crushing wave of COVID-19 patients, the overwhelming majority of them unvaccinated, and as hospitals struggle to find the nurses they need to treat the sick.
Jenkins said mandating masks is an attempt to give some relief to hospitals, but the best way to do that is for more people to get vaccinated.
“We’re trying to buy our hospitals some time by doing everything that we all can do to get through this,” Jenkins said.