Texas Dems want Gov. Abbott to reverse course on school mask mandate ban

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Monday, July 26, 2021
State Reps ask Abbott to change tune on mandate refusal
The governor points to personal responsibility, while the state reps. said schools are vulnerable to COVID and need the state to step in and allow requirements for face masks.

Some state lawmakers are asking Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and education leaders to change their minds on a lack of face mask mandates in the coming school year as COVID-19 cases continue to climb again.

State Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, released a copy of a letter she sent to Abbott and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath late last week asking them to reverse the current ban on school mask mandates.

"Children under twelve cannot get a COVID vaccine, which means they are vectors of infection for each other, their teachers, and their family members," Goodwin wrote. "Putting them all in one building without masks is foolish."

Currently, masks are optional after Abbott signed an executive order prohibiting face mask mandates.

RELATED: Gov. Greg Abbott says he won't impose new mask mandate despite increasing COVID-19 cases

Goodwin also asks for the state to allow districts to offer virtual learning options again for high-risk students.

Houston ISD, the state's largest school district, joined others in asking Abbott earlier this year to add virtual learning funding to the list of priority legislative items, but that didn't get very far.

SEE ALSO: Here's who can and can't make you wear masks

Abbott said while in Houston last week that Texans have had plenty of time to adjust during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Everyone has had more than a year to master all of the safe strategies they can choose for them and their family members," Abbott said. "We're past the time of government mandates in the time of personal responsibility, and that's what we'll do."

Goodwin's letter was signed by more than 30 other Texas House members, including seven Houston-area Democrats.

No Republicans signed on to the letter, though it wasn't clear if any were asked.

COVID-19 cases have been surging in Texas and nationally - mostly among unvaccinated people - as the highly contagious delta variant has become dominant.

As the delta variant has spread, some key pandemic indicators have increased in Texas. Late last week, the state's positivity rate - the ratio of cases to tests - went above 10% for the first time since February, a threshold that Abbott has previously identified as dangerous.

As for the unvaccinated, Texas children under 12 make up about 17% of the state's population.

"Kids will not be forced by government or by schools to wear masks in school," Abbott said in May. "They can by parental choice wear a mask, but there will be no government mandate requiring masks."

Our ABC13 partners at the Houston Chronicle and the Texas Tribune contributed to this report.