Texas’ attorney general on Wednesday threatened to sue the city of Austin, which has chosen not to roll back its mask mandate even though Gov. Greg Abbott lifted a statewide mandate earlier this month.
In a letter published Wednesday, Ken Paxton, a Republican, threatened to file suit against the city if it did not lift mandates requiring masks in public by 6 p.m. local time.
"The decision to require masks or otherwise impose COVID-19-related operating limits is expressively reserved for private businesses on their own premises. It does not rest with jurisdictions like the City of Austin or Travis County or their local health authorities,” Paxton’s letter read. “If you continue to flout the law in this manner, we’ll take you to court again and you will lose again.”
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.— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) March 10, 2021
Travis County and Austin have a few hours to comply with state law or I’ll sue them. And they’ll lose again. pic.twitter.com/eDqT1QHvGP
Later on Wednesday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat, told CNN that he would not back down and that he anticipated a lawsuit.
"We promised the people in this community a long time ago that we would be driven by the data and the doctors and we're going to make good on that promise for however long we can," Adler said. "The science and the data are very clear that the single most important thing we can all be doing at this point is wearing masks."
At this time, it’s unclear if Paxton has filed a lawsuit.
The back-and-forth took place the same day that Abbott’s executive order lifting a statewide mask mandate and business capacity limits took effect. President Joe Biden, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other top public health experts have sharply criticized states that have chosen to lift mask mandates, noting that case rates still remain high.
NBC News notes that Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio are also keeping mask mandates in place, but only on city property and in public schools. Masks are also required on federal property and in federal buildings.