Just as our kids are beginning to return to school and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo raised the COVID 19 threat level to RED, a public health showdown began to take center stage as fears grew over sending our vulnerable, unvaccinated children back to school – without masks.
Despite COVID-19 numbers increasing, Gov. Greg Abbott declared earlier this month that he would not issue government mandates – not even for masks – as the delta variant has cases and hospitalizations sweeping the nation.
The governor’s executive order notes that “no government entity, including a county, city, school district and public health authority” and “any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds” can enforce mask or vaccine mandates. Offenses could lead to fines up to $1,000. Private businesses, however, still have the right to require customers and employees to wear masks.
Abbott says it is left up to an individual’s personal responsibility.
“Going forward, in Texas, there will not be any government-imposed shutdowns or mask mandates. Everyone already knows what to do,” he said.
That may be something you can argue when it comes to adults, but not so much when it comes to children.
In the beginning, some districts and universities began implementing safety precautions, while others said they would not have any special protocols in place for this new school year.
Previously, the Houston Independent School District said there would be no temperature screenings, no social distancing protocols, and masks were “optional” for both students and staff inside, outside and on school transportation.
But new HISD Superintendent Millard House II obviously had second thoughts and made the brave decision to stand up against Abbott and propose a mask mandate in the interest of safety.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is also fighting back, for the sake of all residents, announcing that the county has authorized the Harris County attorney to file a lawsuit challenging Abbott’s order.
Hidalgo said the lawsuit was being filed following concerns from multiple school leaders, and the fourth wave of the coronavirus.
“First responders and school leaders are speaking out and standing up as Delta ravages our community. We have their back,” she tweeted.
And more began to speak out.
Representatives from the Houston Federation of Teachers and the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation joined U.S. Representative Al Green Wednesday, calling on all the school districts to do the right thing.
“The CDC, local and state public health officials, and the entire medical community have made it clear: mask mandates help keep our kids, our co-workers, and our communities safe,” the representatives said in a release. “But instead of listening to public health experts, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Education Agency are playing politics with our children’s lives and blocking districts from taking common-sense measures to keep kids safe.”
The public is being heard, for the most part, as more school districts began to follow HISD’s lead and begin re-instating mask mandates, against the governor’s wishes.
But all we have to say is this. YOU are the parent. YOU are the protector of your home and YOU must make the decisions to PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN! Make sure your teens and everyone in your home of eligible age get vaccinated so that your younger children, who are not eligible for shots at this time, have every ounce of protection they need. Teach your children the importance of mask safety just as much as you teach them their ABCs so when they go into these schools – without you – they have a little more knowledge to keep themselves safe. It’s tough enough being a kid. Let’s help where we can.