Mask On | Mask Off | Mask On
By Jonathan S. Petree
Attorney at McGuire, Craddock & Strother, P.C.
August 12, 2021
On May 18, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order banning mask mandates. Executive Order GA-36 prohibits governmental entities in Texas—including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials—from requiring or mandating mask wearing. 1
Pursuant to Governor Abbott’s Executive Order, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor of a public school can be required to wear a mask after June 4, 2021. 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.
In spite of Governor Abbott’s Order, and in response to the rising rate of COVID-19 infections within in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins successfully obtained a temporary restraining order against Governor Abbott’s mask mandate ban 2 and subsequently issued his own Emergency Order establishing mask requirements within Dallas County. 3
Judge Jenkins’ Emergency Order went into effect on Wednesday, August 11, 2021, and requires all child care centers, PreK-12 public schools, and commercial entities to develop a health safety policy that must require, at a minimum, universal indoor masking. The temporary restraining order against Governor Abbott’s Executive Order will expire on August 24, 2021.
Emergency Order – Health and Safety Policy for Pre-K Through 12 Public Schools
Judge Jenkins’ Emergency Order dictates that all child care centers and Pre-K through 12 public Schools operating in Dallas County must develop and implement a health and safety policy (“Health and Safety Policy”). The Health and Safety Policy must require, at minimum, universal indoor masking. Practically, this means that all teachers, staff, students (other than those that are under 2 years of age), and visitors to child care centers or schools, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask.
Judge Jenkins told NBC 5 News, “We’ll work quickly with schools … and others to get their feedback and get in place reasonable mask requirements that will keep our kids and the rest of us safe.” Judge Jenkins is joined by other local leaders, with officials in San Antonio and Bexar County issuing similar mandates. Other major school districts across the state have also declared that they will require masks. Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are appealing Judge Jenkins’ mask mandate to Texas’ 5th Court of Appeals on the theory that the mandate violates the Governor’s Executive Order issued pursuant to his emergency powers during disaster, citing the Texas Disaster Act. 4
COVID-19 remains a pressing concern for Texans. While Governor Abbott’s Executive Order faces litigation and judicial scrutiny throughout Texas, the majority of the state no longer requires most Texans to wear masks. The responsibility to make safe choices and take COVID-19 precautions will fall on individual Texans and business owners. In Dallas County, however, Texans should expect to have to wear a mask—especially within all child care centers and Pre-K through 12 public schools. At least for now.
For more information, please contact Jonathan Petree at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This correspondence should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation and legal questions.
 Executive Order No. GA-36 may be found at: https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/EO-GA-36_prohibition_on_mandating_face_coverings_response_to_COVID-19_disaster_IMAGE_05-18-2021.pdf
 Judge Jenkins’ pleading for the TRO may be found at: https://www.dallascounty.org/Assets/uploads/docs/covid-19/press-releases/2021/august/080921-Final-Jenkins-v-Koch-Supplemental-Counterclaim.pdf
More details regarding Judge Parker’s TRO, and a full copy of the Order, may be found at: https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2021/08/10/temporary-restraining-order-issued-gov-greg-abbott-executive-order-banning-mask-mandates/
 Judge Jenkins’ August 11, 2021, emergency order may be found at: https://www.dallascounty.org/Assets/uploads/docs/covid-19/orders-media/2021/august/081121-DallasCounty-Order-CountyJudgeClayLewisJenkins-on-RequiredUse-of-a-FaceMask-in-CertainPublicSpace.pdf
 Texas Tribune Staff, Live COVID-19 Updates: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asks appeals court to strike down Dallas County mask mandate, Texas Tribune (Aug. 11, 2021), https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/11/texas-mask-mandates-covid-19/.