Matagorda County leaders stood united behind the announcement from Texas Governor Greg Abbott latest executive order prohibiting governmental entities in Texas, including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities or governmental officials, from requiring or mandating mask wearing in the state.
Public schools may continue to follow current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. After June 4, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus.
“Governor Abbott is the Chief Executive Officer for the State of Texas and emergency management is one of his duties, which it appears, that he is fulfilling. This is not his first and probably not his last Executive Order during the COVID 19 pandemic, which are designed to protect the health, safety and financial wellbeing of the Texans he is sworn to serve,” said Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald.
Beginning May 21, local governments or officials that attempt to impose a mask mandate or impose a limitation inconsistent or conflicting with the Executive Order can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.
“The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities,” said Abbott. “Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities. We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.”
Exempt from the Executive Order are state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, and county and municipal jails.
“The Governor’s orders do not impact the hospital district or the affiliated spaces where we provide patient services. So, at this time, anyone entering any district-owned or affiliated facility including the hospital, medical office building, or a community health clinic location will still be required to wear a mask per CDC guidelines,” said Aaron Fox, chief business development officer and public information officer for the Matagorda County Hospital District.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, the hospital district has always accepted and complied with the guidance sent down from Austin and the CDC, and by maintaining our on-campus mask mandate, we are continuing to remain in compliance,” Fox said.
Abbott’s announcement comes as Matagorda County continues to post higher than usual number in positive COVID cases. Presently, the county is averaging 159 new cases during the past 14 days for an average of 4.3 new cases per 1,000 residents.
Fox said the county remains at 33.5 percent vaccinated against the virus and 43.2 percent receiving the first part of the vaccination process.
The Bay City ISD Board of Trustees voted 4-3 to lift the district’s mask requirement for students and make it optional immediately a recent meeting.
Bay City High School Principal Estela Reyes said that if any of the graduates get sick right now, they would not be able to walk for graduation.
“What stresses me right now as of May 19 if any of my senior kids were to get sick, we will have to tell them they can’t walk,” Reyes said. “That is the hardest thing a high school principal has to do.”
“The Bay City ISD Board of Trustees voted Monday night to remove our mask mandate for students and staff. Therefore, Gov. Abbott’s order had no practical effect on Bay City ISD, as the board had already decided to remove the mandate,” said Grant McGalliard, chief communications officer for the Bay City Independent School District.
According to Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina, the Texas State Teachers Association believes Gov. Greg Abbott’s order ending all masking requirements in Texas public schools, effective June 4, is premature. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that schools require masks and social distancing for the remainder of the school year because many students have not been vaccinated and will not complete their two-dose regimen of Pfizer vaccines until well into the summer. And many of these children will be attending in-person summer school.
FDA approval for vaccinating children aged 12-15 was issued only last week, and there has been no approval for vaccinating children younger than 12.
“The governor should have waited until the CDC issues new mask guidelines for the 2021-22 school year before acting on masking requirements in public schools. We know some school districts already have ended their mask mandates, and we believe that also is ill-advised. The health and safety of our students, educators and communities must remain our first priority as we attempt to emerge from this pandemic,” Molina said.
Dr. Andrew Seigrist said he is looking forward to the day when all talk about the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
“I am very excited to see Texas Covid 19 numbers falling and that we are moving past the worst part of this pandemic. I believe that a combination of herd immunity and vaccinations have had a positive impact on our state. I am looking forward to the Texas Education Agency removing their quarantine requirements for any employees in close contact with a lab positive COVID case. That being said, I want everyone to be healthy. We have all lost friends and family to this pandemic and I am ready for this to be over,” said Dr. Siegrist.
Van Vleck Superintendent John O’Brien also believes Abbott’s decision was the right decision at this time.
As more people get vaccinated, I think it is logical direction to head. As a school district, we will follow the Governor’s order just as we did last year when he mandated us to wear a mask. Our mask wearing policy will end on June 4th, as it is stated in the Governor’s order. At that point, the wearing of a mask in VVISD will be a personal decision for every individual that steps onto our campuses,” O’Brien said.