Mask Mandate: Frequently Asked Questions

Coronavirus

FILE – In this July 27, 2021, file photo, a face masks is attached to the arrows of Britain’s Bryony Pitman during the women’s individual eliminations at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

SAN ANGELO, Texas – Local Health Authority Dr. James Vretis issued the Implementation of Control Measures on Property related to the COVID-19 Virus to go into effect on Thursday, August 26th, which is now temporarily blocked due to a recent court decision in San Antonio.

The point of this article is to explain the mask order, how it will impact Tom Green County Schools, and how it plans to work alongside Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order as well as the Texas Supreme Court Decision impacting Abbott’s Executive Order.

Who is the Local Health Authority? What does he do?

According to the City of San Angelo, “a local health authority is a reputable physician appointed by either the health department or county commissioners to implement both state and local laws relating to public health. San Angelo’s Local Health Authority is Dr. James Vretis, an emergency medicine physician with 41 years of experience in his field and numerous other roles within the medical community. Vretis has served as San Angelo’s Local Health Authority since July 2017. Some of his important duties include deciding on and implementing restrictions that the general public has to abide by under law. An abundance of research precedes each and every decision, he said, and every order he issues is in the best interest of the public’s health.”

What is the Local Health Authority’s Order About?

According to Dr. Vretis’ order, “Masks shall be required for all education facilities located within Tom Green County where instruction is delivered and a student or staff person has tested positive for COVID-19. The order is to be effective from August 26, 2021 until the end of the school day on October 15, 2021 unless the Texas Education Agency or court of competent jurisdiction changes or reinstitutes enforcement against school districts with mask mandates.”

What does this mean? If a student or staff person has tested positive for COVID-19 at a school within Tom Green County, all students and staff at the school were the student tested positive must wear masks at school until October 15, 2021, unless the Texas Education Agency or other court decision blocks or extends the mask mandate.

Which school districts in Tom Green County are enforcing the Local Health Authority’s Order?

As of the writing of this article, Christoval ISD, Grape Creek ISD, TLCA, Wall ISD and Water Valley ISD are not enforcing the Local Health Authority’s Order at this time.

The status of San Angelo ISD, and Veribest ISD is unknown at this time.

For more on each of Tom Green County’s School Districts decisions, click here.

Angelo State University and Howard College are not affected by the mask mandate.

What does Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 mention about this?

According to item 4a in the Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38, “no governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering.”

Where does the Texas Education Agency stand on this?

According to the Texas Education Agency, “mask provisions of GA-38 are not being enforced as the result of ongoing litigation. Further guidance will be made available after the court issues are resolved.”

More can be found on the Texas Education Agency website by clicking here.

Litigation and court issues? What’s going on?

As a result of Governor Abbott’s Executive Order, several school districts across the state have filed restraining orders against the governor’s ban on mask mandates and require students and residents to wear face coverings.

As of August 19th, the Texas Supreme Court has declined to block restraining orders against Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate ban. More on this story here.

As of August 26th, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked San Antonio’s mask mandate for public schools Thursday, the latest in the tug-of-war legal battle between local governments and the state’s Republican leadership over mandatory face coverings.

The state’s highest civil court put the mandate by officials in San Antonio and Bexar County on pause, overriding a ruling a week ago by the 4th Court of Appeals — which had cleared the way for officials to compel students, teachers, school staff and visitors at K-12 public schools to wear masks.

What does this mean? Dr. Vretis stated that he would support the Texas Supreme Court Decision in San Antonio/Bexar County temporarily blocking mask mandates in Tom Green County.

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