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Gov. Abbott issues statements in response to lawsuits filed against executive order preventing mask mandates

Gov. Abbott signed the executive order in May and it prohibits state-funded institutions from requiring masks.
Credit: KHOU

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott's Office issued statements Tuesday on the lawsuits that have been filed against his executive order and how it affects schools in Texas.

Abbott's Office said that removing the ability or enforce mask mandates doesn't mean that people can't wear masks. The Office reiterated that the COVID vaccine is still the most effective defense against the virus.

"Removing government mandates, however, does not end personal responsibility or the importance of caring for family members, friends, and your community," the statement read in part. "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.”

In May, Abbott signed the executive order, which prevents state-funded institutions from requiring masks. The order applies to all public schools and universities. It also blocks county and city mandates.

RELATED: Governor Abbott issues Executive Order to stop most government entities from mandating masks

"Governor Abbott has been clear that the time for mask mandates is over; now is the time for personal responsibility," the statement reads in part. "Parents and guardians have the right to decide whether their child will wear a mask or not, just as with any other decision in their child’s life."

On Tuesday, the Harris County Attorney announced plans to take legal action against Abbott’s ban on mask mandates. Christian Menefee told KHOU 11 he is waiting for authorization from County Commissioners, which was on the agenda for Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting.

RELATED: Harris County Attorney plans to fight Gov. Abbott's mask mandate ban if authorized

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced via Twitter on Tuesday morning that his city was filing a lawsuit against Abbott in order "to restore local control to address COVID-19." Hours later, a state district judge issued a temporary restraining order allowing San Antonio and Bexar County to mandate masks until a hearing on the lawsuit, which is set for Monday.

RELATED: Bexar County can issue mask mandate for schools despite Gov. Abbott’s ban, judge says in temporary order

On Sunday night, the Southern Center for Child Advocacy, a nonprofit education group, filed a lawsuit in Travis County against Abbott and the executive order.

RELATED: Gov. Greg Abbott’s order banning mask mandates in Texas schools faces lawsuit, defiance by big-city districts

Here is Abbott's Office's statement on the lawsuits:

“The assertion that the Governor of the State of Texas doesn’t have the authority to protect the rights and freedoms of Texans is just plain misguided. Under Chapter 418, the Governor has full authority to issue executive orders that have the full force and effect of law in response to a disaster. This health disaster has continued to change, and so should our response. 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.

"Removing government mandates, however, does not end personal responsibility or the importance of caring for family members, friends, and your community. 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.”

Here is Abbott's Office's statement on school districts and mask mandates:

“We are all working to protect Texas children and those most vulnerable among us, but violating the Governor’s executive orders—and violating parental rights—is not the way to do it. Governor Abbott has been clear that the time for mask mandates is over; now is the time for personal responsibility. Parents and guardians have the right to decide whether their child will wear a mask or not, just as with any other decision in their child’s life. Governor Abbott has spent his entire time in office fighting for the rights and freedoms of all Texans, and our office continues working with the Office of the Attorney General to do just that. The best defense against this virus is the COVID vaccines, and we continue to strongly encourage all eligible Texans to get vaccinated.”

Here are some stories about how Texas school districts are handling mask mandates this year:

RELATED: Masks will be optional in Katy ISD this school year, district officials say

RELATED: Fort Bend ISD releases details of virtual learning program for the fall semester

RELATED: Austin ISD to require masks for all students, staff and visitors

RELATED: HISD superintendent stands by decision to implement mask mandate

RELATED: 'We're in an urgent crisis' | Dallas ISD to 'temporarily' require masks at schools and facilities, officials announce