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Local mask mandate indicates a disconnect between Corpus Christi, Nueces County officials

Posted at 1:26 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 14:26:53-04

Lately, some have wondered if Nueces County officials and Corpus Christi officials have been seeing eye to eye, with some pointing to this past weekend when the county issued a mask mandate for area schools -- if just for a moment.

"We have authority, we have a crisis, we have a need, and aren't you glad that you live in a community where your local health authority wants to protect your children?" said Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales.

But right after that mandate was signed, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling keeping Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order in place, which bans mask mandates in schools. Because of that ruling, Nueces County voided its mask mandate.

Then Monday, the Corpus Christi City Council held a special meeting about the mandate.

There, city attorney Miles Risley said the city didn't have any input on it.

But the county said that's just not the case.

"We, on Friday, began the dialogue with city leadership," Canales said.

"We were not given the opportunity to give input to any particular order," said Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo.

The county said it held talks with the city, but the city said those chats didn't amount to real input from them.

In fact, on Monday, the city council held an emergency meeting that ended with this statement from the city attorney:

"The city was not a signatory to this order,” he said. “The city council and city manager did not receive and were not given the opportunity to provide input into this order prior to its issuance."

"I think that that is very misleading, and that's where I'll leave it," said Canales in response to that statement.
Canales said the city was included in the process leading up to the mask order being signed.

"On Friday, on Saturday, and on Sunday there were conversations, absolutely, between the leaderships of the city and the county," she said.

There were conversations, but Guajardo said that Sunday talk ended without a decision on whether or not to move forward with the order.

"We all knew a supreme court ruling was coming down, so everyone had agreed: ‘Let's just wait and see what happens with that,' ” she said It could be a day. “It could be two -- It could be three."

The issue is whether or not a mask mandate violates state law. The mayor thinks it does, while the judge says it didn't -- before the supreme court ruling. Ultimately, the Local Health Authority, a member of the City-County Public Health District, made the call and ordered the mask mandate."

"The intention was for all of us to be on the same page, and to support the schools, and to be able to put out an order that was done correctly and fairly and legally," said Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health Director Annette Rodriguez.

The city and county have appeared to be on the same page for the entirety of the pandemic, but a mask mandate became a divisive issue.

Whether it will further divide city-county cooperation isn't clear.

"I don't think so,” Canales said. “I think that it's alright to disagree, you know? If they don't believe in the mask mandate, they have that opinion."

"In the end, I think it's up to each entity to decide -- What should the school districts do?” Guajardo said. “What should each different entity do for their organization?"

As for the Texas Supreme Court ruling, it's what's known as a "stay."

That essentially puts a pause on any school district from attempting to enforce a mask mandate until the issue can be sorted out in the courts, but many school districts in the state, including Dallas, San Antonio, and even the West Oso ISD, have continued to require mask in schools despite that court ruling.

Producer Carlos Adamez contributed to this report.