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Austin public college students will need to mask up after city amends mask mandate

Austin public college students will need to mask up for the fall semester after Austin's newest amendment. (Austin Community College/Facebook)

Students at Austin public colleges and charter schools, including Austin Community College, will now need to add masks to their school supplies after Austin and Travis County added public colleges to their latest mask mandate.

The rule now requires students, staff and visitors over the age of two to wear a face-covering at all public schools, including charter schools and charter colleges, within the city.

The ACC Board of Trustees responded to the mandate with a unanimous decision to institute a mask mandate for those ages 2 and older starting August 20, while a city official told reporters Friday that the University of Texas may be exempt from the rule due to its existence on state property. The city's mandate goes into effect immediately.

All visitors and staff are also required to wear a mask while on all city or county property as per rules laid out by the city's risk-based guidelines.

City officials went against Gov. Greg Abbott's ruling in reinstating mask mandates on Wednesday after the metro's available ICU beds shrunk to just two. The seven-day average of COVID-related hospitalizations rose to 84 as Austin switched to Stage 5, the highest level of risk-related recommendations.

Texas metros are following a similar route, with Dallas and Bexar counties securing a temporary restraining order to block Abbott's ban and require masking in schools. Alongside Florida, the state accounts for nearly 40% of new cases in the U.S. as the nation encounters its worst spike since late winter.

Abbott is still backing his March ban on masking, advocating for face coverings as a "personal choice." Both Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the filing of a petition to "strike down" such mask mandates.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said that going against the governor's wishes was a tough decision, but not one they hadn't done before—in March, the city maintained a mask mandate for weeks after Abbott's reversal and was subject to a lawsuit by Paxton. The district judge's decision went in Austin's favor.

"These are necessary yet difficult decisions, but those guided by the data and doctors will remain our North Star," Adler said. "We've already been in court twice with the governor," he told KXAN. "The district court the last two times has upheld our ability to issue these kinds of orders locally."

The decision comes after UT sent out an email Monday that all students will be required to take a viral COVID-19 test before arriving in Austin or 72 hours before moving on campus if they are already in the city.


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