Businesses and schools in Austin are defying Gov. Abbott's mask mandate ban
Austin, Texas – Despite Governor Greg Abbott's order banning mask mandates by government-associated entities, public schools in the Austin-metro area are mandating masks, and local businesses are following suit.
Numerous public schools in Austin, Texas are defying Gov. Abbott's order that disallows them from putting such mandates in place.
Following Austin Independent School District's (AISD) announcement Tuesday stating all AISD schools would mandate masks, Austin-Travis County dealt another blow to Abbott's restrictive order by mandating masks be worn in city buildings, county buildings, and all public schools.
Travis County judge Andy Brown announced the new measures on Twitter Wednesday evening, noting that he and Mayor Adler signed orders that would reinstate mask mandates when in stages three, four, or five of Austin Public Health's risk-based guidelines.
"With our kids back in school next week, our community & public health officials have called on us to take this reasonable measure. This will protect countless lives & keep us safe," Brown wrote on Twitter.
By breaking the governor's order, both AISD and the city of Austin could face fines and possibly even be sued by the state. Yet many believe it's a small price to pay to ensure the safety of residents, students, teachers, and faculty members.
Just 10 minutes after Brown tweeted the news regarding mask mandates in the city, Gov. Abbott sent out a tweet of his own, threatening legal action to any institution that defies GA-38 – Abbott's executive order that bans mask mandates by government officials.
"Any school district, public university, or local government official that decides to deft GA-38–which prohibits government [sic] entities from mandating masks–will be taken to court," Abbott wrote.
Entities who are deemed to violate GA-38 could be handed a fine of $1,000, but it's unclear whether it is a one-time fee, or a recurring one dependent on the number of days in violation.
While Gov. Abbott's executive order was directed towards government bodies, it seems the state is taking things a step further by interfering with businesses' moves to mandate masks and require proof of vaccination.
Texas takes on private businesses
The executive order that Gov. Abbott signed into law on July 29 disallows government officials from mandating masks or vaccinations, but failed to set any parameters for businesses outside of government affiliated ones.
This gave businesses, such as bars and restaurants, the leeway to do what they felt was right regarding mask mandates amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the highly contagious delta variant.
On Tuesday, two Austin businesses with the same owner – Launderette and Fresa's – announced in two since-deleted Instagram posts that they would require both masks and proof of vaccination for those who wanted to dine inside.
However, the two establishments were forced to backtrack on Thursday, telling the Austin-American Statesman they received phone calls and letters from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) notifying them that they would be violating Section 9 of Senate Bill 968, which states:
"A business in this state may not require a customer to provide any documentation certifying the customer's Covid-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery on entry to, to gain access to, or to receive service from the business."
According to the Statesman, Launderette's owners said, "Yesterday we received a courtesy call from the TABC saying that we must immediately act in compliance with the law and that if we did not, a case would be opened, and we would be at threat of losing our state licenses."
The bill in question was signed into law on June 16, prior to Gov. Abbott's executive order. However, neither of the two pieces of legislation ban businesses from enforcing mask mandates, giving private businesses the power to enforce mask use if they choose.
With the rise of Covid-19 cases in the Austin-metro area due to the highly-transmissible delta variant, many businesses are opting to mandate masks once again to curb the spread.
Businesses currently requiring a mask include: ATX Cocina, Bobo's Snack Bar, Bouldin Creek Cafe, Brentwood Social House, Drink.Well, East Side King, East Side Pies, El Naranjo, Hotel Vegas and Volstead Lounge, Joe's Bakery, Justine's Brasserie, L'Oca d'Oro, Once Over Coffee, Rebel Cheese, Salt & Time, and Thai Kun.
If you're looking to head out to any bars, restaurants, or stores in Austin, Texas, it's a good Idea to bring a mask along for the ride.
Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire