AUSTIN, Texas — As millions of Texas schoolchildren prepared to start in-person learning this week, Texas Democrats, state and federal leaders, educators, and parents held a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon urging Gov. Greg Abbott to revoke his dangerous executive order banning schools from issuing any sort of mask requirements.
COVID-19 cases are surging across the state. It was reported today that Travis County has set a pandemic record for the most patients in hospital ICUs for COVID-19. With Gov. Abbott using his emergency powers to stop local entities from protecting their own citizens, local government and school officials are taking matters into their own hands to do what is needed to protect their students and faculty.
There is growing movement in protest of the Governor’s order with Dallas ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Austin ISD, San Antonio ISD, Spring ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Houston ISD, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, and Socorro ISD announcing mask mandate requirements ahead of the start of the school year. Additionally, the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, Dallas County, and several other local governments have filed lawsuits against the governor for his dangerous ban on masks and other COVID safety precautions. Both Bexar and Dallas County have been granted permission to mandate masks — big wins for two of the largest school districts in our state. A nonprofit group, Southern Center for Child Advocacy, has also sued to block Abbott’s order.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:
“I commend our local elected leaders, school superintendents, and our educators who are taking necessary steps to protect children and communities as they return to school during this increasingly dangerous health emergency.
“The statewide defiance of the governor’s rule proves how wrong this executive order was. Abbott has shown us time and time again that protecting his constituents is purely political — an obligation he consistently ignores in an attempt to secure his Party’s primary nomination again. It’s time for the Governor to do what’s right and give local elected officials and health authorities the power to protect their communities. Texas Deserves Better.”
Please see some notable points from Tuesday’s virtual press conference made by the leaders below. You may view the full press conference Here
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa:
“We never expected to have a governor that instead of trying to help us — is actually hurting us. And to make it worse, he’s doing it for political reasons because he wants to ensure that he gets elected in the primary, which is controlled primarily by people who are anti-vaccine and anti-maskers. His concern should not be the primary or his political future. His concern should be the children of our state, the people that live in our communities.”
Former Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro:
“The most fundamental duty of a public servant is to help keep the people they serve safe and healthy. By that standard, Governor Greg Abbott is failing miserably. The governor’s lack of leadership has caused tremendous anxiety for parents, for educators, for families across Texas. Teachers, educators, school board members, council members, mayors, county judges across the state are begging Governor Abbott to rescind his executive order to allow them to make the best choices to keep people safe.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18):
“This is a picture of an 11-month-old baby in my constituency, who had to be lifelined to Temple, TX because there are no pediatric beds in this region. Is that what the governor wants to have on his hands? The increase of children having COVID-19 is absolutely frightening.
“The reason why this little eleven-month-old had to be lifelined is because not one single pediatric hospital had one single bed for that baby. Is that what the government wants to have on his hands? Is that what we are, here in America? Is that what we have resulted in? Is that what we are here in Texas? The state that has, along with Florida, the highest infection rate and the lowest number of vaccines. I can tell you that when people vote, they don’t vote to elect individuals that would give them a sentence of death.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins:
“We all need to be on team public health. The governor has made a decision that he will not properly respond to the COVID-19 surge with the Delta variant. We need Abbott to get out of the way, so those of us who are unafraid to respond, can do that.”
“My hope is that local officials and superintendents will continue to stand up for their communities, and then some Republicans will stand up and join doctors in being for public health and being for their communities.
Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson:
“I was always happy knowing that I was going to go back and see my students. However, this is not such a happy time for teachers in Texas. The governor is asking us to put our lives in danger. He’s refusing to allow mask mandates and that school districts do not have to contact trace. That is so horrible. It is a political monstrosity.
City of Laredo Health Authority, Dr. Victor Treviño:
“Unfortunately, Texas and Florida alone account only for one in three of all new infections in the United States in the past week. 44% of Texans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is below the national average. We’re in a high transmission environment in Texas, and Laredo has reported zero ICU beds for the last seven days. This already medically underserved border community is number one in the country for new cases per capita during the earlier waves, and we don’t have a pediatric ICU. The Governor’s executive order banning mitigation, specifically masks in schools, is going to lead to more pediatric infections and hospitalizations.”
Marked by COVID Community Board Advisory Member & San Antonio Public School Parent Rosemary Gutierrez:
“When we say pandemic of the unvaccinated, I’m thinking of my child whose only protection is his mask because the vaccine is not yet available to him. I know Greg Abbott was one of the first Texans to get vaccinated. He has enjoyed his freedom of being unmasked, but it’s not a freedom shared with our children younger than 12 years of age.”
Social Worker & El Paso Public School Parent Annette Reyes-Morales:
“Here in El Paso, school started August 2, so we had to make a difficult decision to pull our kids out of public school, and instead homeschool them. We just did not feel comfortable enough in sending our children to a public school setting, where masks were only optional and not enforceable by their teachers or their principles.”
Austin Educator, Cancer Survivor, Austin Public School Parent Caroline Sweet:
“Every teacher enters a classroom with the intention to protect children. It’s our moral obligation & ethical responsibility. We know that masks are the single most important non-pharmaceutical intervention for fighting COVID, and that is what we’ll use.”