Texas, Florida wrestle with local officials over mask mandates


People sit at an outdoor table to share a drink on the patio at Bar 5015 as the state of Texas lifts its mask mandate and allows businesses to reopen at full capacity during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Houston, Texas, US, March 10, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Texas is doing it and now Florida appears ready to follow suit.

Both states are seeking to limit the authority of local leaders to go their own way and not follow mandates from their governors. The issue is face masks.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott lifted the state's mask mandate and fully reopened businesses on March 10. But officials in the city of Austin, the state's capital, and surrounding Travis County said that they would continue requiring citizens to wear masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is because health experts have strongly recommended keeping masks on along with US President Joe Biden, who also argued for masks in his first prime-time address to the nation last week.

As of Saturday, Travis County had reported 77,329 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 778 deaths. Texas had reported 2.7 million cases, 46,000 deaths and 9 percent of its population had been vaccinated.

In a tweet, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on March 10: "City/county leaders must not be thinking clearly. Maybe it's oxygen deprivation from quintuple-masking. Whatever the case, they've tried this before. They lost. Travis County and Austin have a few hours to comply with state law or I'll sue them." He sued the next day.

"I told Travis County and the city of Austin to comply with state mask law. They blew me off. So, once again, I'm dragging them to court," Paxton said on Twitter.

"We will fight Abbott and Paxton's assault against doctors and data for as long as we possibly can," Austin Democratic Mayor Steve Adler told the Austin American Statesman on March 10. "I believe leaders need to be clear and unambiguous in their communications and messaging about masking. Masks work! The governor and attorney general are simply wrong."

On Friday, state District Judge Lora Livingston denied Paxton's request for a temporary restraining order and scheduled a hearing on March 26 on his request. Livingston said the state had given local officials insufficient time to prepare their case.

Several major retailers, grocery and restaurant chains in Texas have said they would still require masks to be worn in their stores. That was their right, Paxton said in a letter to Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown. However, such a decision "does not rest with jurisdictions like the city of Austin or Travis County," he added.

In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis appears focused on not letting local governments decide what they will do about masks.

DeSantis has refused since the earliest days of the pandemic to enact a statewide mask requirement. He has said such decisions should be made on the local level. Now, he is looking to limit their authority by demanding that emergency powers of local governments be rolled back by the Republican-led Legislature.

The drive is being met with outrage by city and county officials, along with Democratic lawmakers who say masks and other public health steps enacted by local leaders remain a big part of Florida's continuing push to overcome the devastation caused by COVID-19.

Close to 4 million Floridians have received at least one shot of vaccine, less than 20 percent of the state's population. COVID-19 has killed more than 32,000 people in the state and sickened almost 2 million. The state has been averaging about 5,000 new cases daily over the past two weeks, with positivity rates topping 5 percent.

2021年3月10日,在美国德克萨斯州休斯顿市的冠状病毒疾病(新冠肺炎)大流行期间,德克萨斯州解除了口罩禁令,允许企业满负荷重新开业,人们坐在露天餐桌旁,在5015酒吧的露台上分享饮料。[图片/机构]

德克萨斯州正在这么做,现在佛罗里达似乎准备效仿。


这两个州都试图限制地方领导人的权力,让他们走自己的路,而不是听从州长的命令。问题是口罩。


共和党州长格雷格·艾伯特(Greg Abbott)解除了该州的面具授权,并于3月10日全面重新开业。但该州首府奥斯汀市和周围特拉维斯县的官员表示,由于新冠肺炎疫情,他们将继续要求市民戴口罩。


这是因为健康专家强烈建议与美国总统乔·拜登(Joe Biden)一起佩戴口罩,拜登上周在首次黄金时段对全国发表讲话时也为口罩辩护。


截至周六,特拉维斯县报告了77,329例新冠肺炎确诊病例和778例死亡。德克萨斯州报告了270万例病例,46000例死亡,9%的人口接种了疫苗。


德克萨斯州司法部长肯·帕克斯顿(Ken Paxton)在3月10日的一条推特上说:“市/县领导人一定没有想清楚。也许是五重掩蔽造成的缺氧。不管是什么情况,他们以前试过这个。他们输了。特拉维斯县和奥斯汀有几个小时的时间来遵守州法律,否则我会起诉他们。”第二天他就起诉了。


“我告诉特拉维斯县和奥斯汀市要遵守州口罩法。他们拒绝了我。帕克斯顿在推特上说:“所以,我再一次把他们拖上法庭。”。


奥斯汀民主党市长史蒂夫·阿德勒3月10日对《奥斯汀美国政治家》表示:“我们将尽可能长时间地打击雅培和帕克斯顿对医生和数据的攻击。”“我认为,领导者在沟通和传达有关掩蔽的信息时,需要清晰明确。口罩管用!州长和司法部长完全错了。”


周五,州地方法官劳拉·利文斯顿拒绝了帕克斯顿的临时禁止令请求,并计划在3月26日就他的请求举行听证会。利文斯顿说,该州没有给地方官员足够的时间准备他们的案件。


德克萨斯州的几家主要零售商、杂货店和连锁餐厅表示,他们仍然需要在商店里戴口罩。帕克斯顿在给阿德勒和特拉维斯县法官安迪·布朗的信中说,这是他们的权利。然而,他补充说,这样的决定“不取决于奥斯汀市或特拉维斯县等司法管辖区”。


在佛罗里达州,共和党州长罗恩·德桑蒂斯似乎专注于不让地方政府决定他们将如何处理口罩。


自大流行的早期,德桑蒂斯就拒绝颁布全州范围的口罩要求。他说这样的决定应该在地方一级做出。现在,他希望通过要求由共和党领导的立法机构收回地方政府的紧急权力来限制他们的权力。


这项运动遭到了市县官员和民主党议员的愤怒,他们表示,当地领导人制定的口罩和其他公共卫生措施仍然是佛罗里达州继续努力克服新冠肺炎造成的破坏的一大部分。


近400万佛罗里达人至少接种了一针疫苗,不到该州人口的20%。新冠肺炎已经导致该州超过32,000人死亡,近200万人患病。在过去的两周内,该州平均每天约有5000例新病例,阳性率超过5%。


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