Parents demonstrate outside Governor's Mansion over mask mandate ban

Parisa Fatehi-Weeks is standing by Austin ISD's decision to mandate masks.

"We understand that being a part of a community means agreeing to certain rules like driving the speed limit," she said.

She was among several parents and other demonstrators outside Gov. Greg Abbott’s mansion Monday morning expressing opposition to the governor's opposing view on mask mandates.

"We are beside ourselves at the situation, we are looking at starting school tomorrow," she said.

Austin ISD's first day of class is Tuesday, with virtual classes starting Aug. 24. Just Sunday the Texas Supreme Court sided with Abbott, saying Bexar and Dallas counties cannot mandate masks in schools. Austin ISD said that has nothing to do with them yet.

"Right now we are continuing to enforce the order that I and Mayor Adler entered in the county because district judge Jan Soifer on Friday entered an injunction against the governor and in favor of the school districts. Local health authorities are the ones who understand what's going on in this state," said Travis County Judge Andy Brown.

The back and forth over masks continues, but in the meantime, those working on the frontlines continue to bear the brunt.

"We will have masks readily available for anybody that accesses AISD grounds," said Alexandra Copeland, director of health services for AISD.

Ahead of the start of the school year, AISD held pop up testing in sites hardest hit by COVID-19. Copeland said they are taking every protocol possible, from social distancing to seating charts for contact tracing.

"For those that are not wanting to wear a mask we really will be working with those students and those families and getting down to the root," said Copeland.

In a statement Monday, Abbott's office said:

"Governor Abbott has been clear that we must rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates. Texans have learned and mastered over the past year the safe practices to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID, and do not need the government to tell them how to do so. Every Texan has a right to choose for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, or get vaccinated.

Vaccines are the most effective defense against contracting COVID and becoming seriously ill, and we continue to urge all eligible Texans to get the vaccine. The COVID vaccine will always remain voluntary and never forced in Texas."

"It makes me really sad that he's not willing to work on a non-partisan basis right now to try to stem the spread of COVID," said Brown.

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Austin ISD continues to move forward with mask mandate
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