Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is threatening to sue Travis County and the City of Austin if officials don't back down on local orders that continue to require masks despite Gov. Greg Abbott ending the statewide mask mandate on Wednesday.
Austin and Travis County public health leaders recently announced they would continue to require masks, even though Abbott forbade local authorities from superseding his order. Only county judges can order COVID-19 restrictions if hospitalizations from the virus rise above 15% of the bed capacity in that hospital region for seven straight days.
"The decision to require masks or otherwise impose COVID-19-related operating limits is expressly reserved to 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 wrote in a statement Wednesday. "We have already taken you to court under similar circumstances. You lost. If you continue to flout the law in this manner, we'll take you to court again and you will lose again."
Paxton gave local authorities until 6 p.m. to come into compliance with the governor's order, rescind local COVID-19 mandates and retract related public statements.
"Otherwise, on behalf of the state of Texas," Paxton wrote, "I will sue you."
Paxton's office successfully challenged Austin and Travis officials' attempts to restrict holiday restaurant operations around New Year's.