Editor’s note: This is a developing story and will be updated once more details become available.
Austin and Travis County officials amended an order Friday requiring masks in public schools, including public colleges and charter schools in Travis County.
“The COVID-19 virus has mutated and developed more highly contagious strains, such as the delta variant, that has led to increased pediatric hospital admissions throughout the Austin-Travis County area,” the order said. “Requiring face coverings in schools is a necessary measure.”
The University of Texas did not immediately respond to a request for comment. As of Thursday, UT said it would continue with an optional mask policy until laws or regulations changed.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in May that prohibited government entities such as counties, cities and school districts from imposing mask mandates and COVID-19 regulations. The city’s mask mandate opposes Abbott’s order.
The city of Austin is currently in Stage 5 of COVID-19 risk-based guidelines due to rising cases of the delta variant. Stage 5 is the most severe level of pandemic conditions and is only issued during serious levels of community spread. The city will enforce the mask mandate at Stages 3 to 5.
“With our kids back in school next week, our community and public health officials have called on us to take this reasonable measure,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said in a tweet. “This will protect countless lives and keep us safe.”
Austin health officials said earlier this week that the Austin area is down to two staffed ICU beds as more people become infected with COVID-19, according to the Austin American-Statesman.