Virus outbreaks temporarily close 4 Texas school districts

Aug 17, 2021, 3:34 AM | Updated: 4:00 pm
Maksim Mongayt, 7, hugs his mother Alexandra Mongayt in front of his elementary school on the first...

Maksim Mongayt, 7, hugs his mother Alexandra Mongayt in front of his elementary school on the first day of classes in Richardson, Texas, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Despite Texas Gov Greg Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates by local officials, the Richardson Independent School District and many others across the state are requiring masks for students. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

              Russell Rakestraw II hugs his son fourth grader Russell Rakestraw III in front of his elementary school while dropping off on the first day of classes in Richardson, Texas, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Despite Texas Gov Greg Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates by local officials, the Richardson Independent School District and many others across the state are requiring masks for students. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
            
              Maksim Mongayt, 7, hugs his mother Alexandra Mongayt in front of his elementary school on the first day of classes in Richardson, Texas, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. Despite Texas Gov Greg Abbott's executive order banning mask mandates by local officials, the Richardson Independent School District and many others across the state are requiring masks for students. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

HOUSTON (AP) — As the new school year begins for Texas students and mask mandates are debated in various state courts, at least four school districts have already closed campuses due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

The shutdowns are taking place as more school districts and communities continued this week to defy Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates and require students and residents to wear face coverings. Tuesday afternoon, Abbott’s office announced he had tested positive for COVID-19. Abbott, who is vaccinated, was experiencing no symptoms.

The school district in Gorman, located about 70 miles (112.65 kilometers) east of Abilene, had been set to begin the new school year on Wednesday but is now delaying that by a week “due to positive COVID cases within the school community of both faculty and students,” Superintendent Mike Winter said in a statement.

“This decision was not made lightly or quickly, and it was made with the best interest of all students, staff, and parents’ safety in mind,” Winter said.

In East Texas, the Bloomburg school district announced it was shut down this week “due to the number of staff members out with COVID.” Classes had started on Aug. 9.

About 60 miles (96.56 kilometers) south of Bloomburg, the Waskom school district’s elementary campus was closed due to the “number of staff members out with COVID,” said Superintendent Rae Ann Patty. Classes in Waskom had started Aug. 11.

These school districts join the Iraan-Sheffield Independent School District in West Texas, which on Monday announced it would close schools for two weeks so students and staff could quarantine due to COVID-19. Classes had started on Aug. 10.

Mask wearing was optional in these four school districts. At least 21 other Texas school districts, including some of the state’s biggest, have instituted mask mandates, which are in violation of Abbott’s executive order banning such measures.

The debate over mandatory mask wearing in Texas school districts continued being litigated in various courts around the state. The issue was expected to ultimately be decided by the Texas Supreme Court, which has already halted mask mandates in two of the state’s largest counties. One of these two counties, Dallas, has brushed aside the high court’s orde r while another, Bexar, on Monday won a temporary injunction against Abbott’s order.

The push by some school districts and counties for mask mandates comes as hospitals across the state continue to be flooded with COVID-19 patients.

In the 25-county region around Houston, 629 COVID patients are waiting for beds but can’t get admitted to a hospital, Dr. David Persse, who is health authority for the Houston Health Department and EMS medical director, said Tuesday. An additional 112 patients are waiting for ICU beds, he said.

On Tuesday, state health officials reported 12,227 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas, the first time the state had surpassed 12,000 since Jan. 27. Since June 27, when hospitalizations had been at their lowest point in more than a year, they have jumped by 756%. State health officials reported 24,422 new and probable cases on Tuesday.

In the Eanes school district in Austin, which is requiring masks, a parent “physically assaulted” one teacher by ripping a mask off her face while another teacher was yelled at by other parents because they couldn’t understand what the teacher was saying while she wore a mask, Superintendent Tom Leonard said in a statement. The first day of classes in the Eanes district was not until Wednesday.

“This type of behavior will not be tolerated in Eanes ISD. Our staff are on the front lines of this pandemic; let’s give them some space and grace. Please, I am asking everyone to be kind…do not fight mask wars in our schools,” Leonard said.

On Monday, the Round Rock and West Oso school districts became the latest to defy Abbott and require students and staff to wear masks.

The San Antonio school district, which also has a mask mandate, on Monday announced it was requiring all staff to become vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15.

In West Texas, El Paso County officials announced that starting Wednesday they would require masks be worn inside all indoor facilities, including schools.

In Harris County, where Houston is located, officials on Tuesday announced $100 gift cards for anyone getting a vaccine as part of their efforts to boost vaccination rates.

___

Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Shoppers looking for bargains enter an OshKosh children clothing store, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in M...
Anne D'Innocenzio and Cora Lewis, Associated Press

Shoppers hunt for deals but inflation makes bargains elusive

Consumers holding out for big deals -- and some much-needed relief from soaring costs on just about everything -- may be disappointed as they head into the busiest shopping season of the year.
13 hours ago
FILE - The Twitter splash page is seen on a digital device, Monday, April 25, 2022, in San Diego.  ...
Associated Press

Musk plans to relaunch Twitter premium service, again

Elon Musk said Friday that Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored check marks to accounts next week.
13 hours ago
FILE - Filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, left, and Nancy Pelosi, right, attend "Tony Bennett Celebrates 9...
Associated Press

HBO to air Nancy Pelosi doc shot by daughter Alexandra

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A documentary on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s life and groundbreaking political career, shot and edited by her daughter, will debut on HBO next month. Alexandra Pelosi’s “Pelosi in the House” will premiere Dec. 13 and will include footage shot during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Some of that footage, including moments when […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

FBI confirms remains in landfill belong to Georgia toddler

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The FBI on Monday confirmed that the bones found in a Georgia landfill are those of a toddler who had been reported missing last month and whose mother was arrested last week on charges including murder. The FBI used DNA analysis to confirm that the bones belonged to 20-month-old Quinton Simon, […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for January delivery rose 96 cents to $77.24 a barrel Monday. Brent crude for January delivery fell 44 cents to $83.19 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for December delivery was unchanged at $2.33 a gallon. December heating oil fell 2 cents to $3.22 a gallon. December natural gas fell 31 cents to […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Attorneys: ‘Botched’ execution caused pain and torture

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama prison staff strapped an inmate to a death chamber gurney, despite a court order in place at the time blocking the execution from going forward, and later subjected him to numerous needle jabs, including in the neck and collarbone region while an official held his head, attorneys wrote in a […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Virus outbreaks temporarily close 4 Texas school districts