Effective June 1, Gainesville Independent School District students and staff will no longer be required to wear masks.
The news from the district came a day after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Tuesday, May 18, which prohibits public schools from requiring masks on campuses beginning June 5.
The order states that public schools can continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask-wearing guidelines through June 4, but after that date “no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus,” according to a news release issued Wednesday, May 19, by Gainesville ISD spokeswoman Leslie Crutsinger.
June 1 marks the first day of summer school for the district. The last day of school is today, Friday, May 21.
“We appreciate the cooperation of all our students, teachers, staff and parents during this past year,” district officials said. “The safety and well-being of our students and staff is top priority.”
Abbott’s order cracked down on other governmental entities, as well. Cities and counties cannot mandate masks to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Beginning Friday, any government entity that tries to impose a mask mandate can face a fine of up to $1,000, according to the order. The order exempts state supported living centers, government-owned or -operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities and county and municipal jails, the Texas Tribune reports.
Gainesville City Manager Barry Sullivan said the city hasn’t required masks to be worn in city facilities for a while.
In an interview with Sullivan after Abbott announced an end to mask mandates in the state on March 2, also known as Texas Independence Day, he told the Register that once it was lifted, city facilities would not require the use of a mask. He also said employees in general would not be required to wear one but those who handle medical and health situations would.
“Our firefighters that go on medical calls will wear the proper PPE for the situation, which includes a mask when needed,” Sullivan said Wednesday, May 19. “The governor’s order does not impact mask requirements in these situations.”
On Wednesday, March 10, all businesses and facilities were allowed to reopen at 100% capacity. In addition, the statewide mask mandate initially issued July 2020 was rescinded. School systems were allowed to continue with their own mask-wearing policies unchanged.
Crutsinger told the Register in March that the district would require masks for all students and staff for the remainder of the school year.
Cooke County Judge Steve Starnes said Thursday, May 20, members of the Cooke County Commissioners’ Court rescinded the requirement for temperature checks and masks on May 10 in all county buildings with the exception of courtrooms during court.
“The courtrooms have been following the recommendations of the Office of Court Administration (OCA),” Starnes said. “However, we will no longer be taking temperatures or require [a] mask in courtrooms effective immediately.”
As of Thursday morning, Cooke County Sheriff Ray Sappington said masks are not required of employees, but they are still required to be worn during jail visitations.
“However, we are checking with the jail commission for updated guidance considering the governor’s action,” Sappington said.
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2. It first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.
As of Friday May 14, there were 11 active coronavirus cases in Cooke County, according to the most recent tally released by county officials. One of those cases was hospitalized.
A total of 3,704 cases have been recorded, counting active, recovered and fatal cases.
As of press time Thursday, there were 33,031,141 reported cases of the coronavirus nationwide and 587,986 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. In Texas, there were 2,936,614 reported cases and 51,081 deaths.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus, officials said.