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Texas teachers' group calls on Gov. Abbott to allow school districts to require masks

The governor's office responded that he "has been clear that the time for government mandating of masks is over."

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) wants Gov. Greg Abbott to allow school districts to require masks. But the governor is not budging.

TSTA President Ovidia Molina issued the following statement Tuesday morning:

"The Texas State Teachers Association calls on Gov. Greg Abbott to withdraw his prohibition on mask mandates and allow individual school districts to require mask use in their facilities if local officials believe masks will help protect the health of their communities as schools reopen for the fall semester.

Educators are eager to return to the classroom, but the pandemic is still dangerous. With COVID-19 cases increasing again and many people still unvaccinated, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that everyone older than 2 wear a mask when they go back to school. Children younger than 12 have not yet been approved for the COVID vaccine.

If Gov. Abbott really cares about the health and safety of Texas students, educators and their communities, he will give local school officials and health experts the option of requiring masks in their schools."

KVUE reached out to the governor's office for a response. Press Secretary Renae Eze said Abbott has been clear that "the time for government mandating of masks is over – now is the time for personal responsibility." She said every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a mask or have their children wear masks.

Eze said the governor's office is continuing to urge eligible Texans to get the vaccine, as it is the most effective defense against contracting COVID-19.

"Texas – and Texans – are increasing the vaccination rate across the state. We’re seeing it with people stepping up to get vaccinated, going from over 33,000 receiving the vaccine last Monday to over 52,000 in the past day," Eze said Tuesday. "Working with our state and local partners through initiatives like the Save Our Seniors program and the State Mobile Vaccine Program, COVID vaccines are easier to access than ever before, with now over 52% of eligible Texans fully vaccinated and over 60% having received at least one dose. And with over 74% of Texas seniors having been fully vaccinated, we're protecting one of our most vulnerable populations."

Eze also said that Abbott has remained in regular contact with Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) Chief Nim Kidd and Dr. John Zerwas since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to work closely with them and the teams at DSHS and TDEM to get Texans vaccinated.

Just last week, 31 Texas House members signed a petition urging the governor to allow schools to mandate masks and offer virtual learning options. On Monday, Austin ISD announced it will offer virtual learning options for some kindergarteners through sixth-graders this fall. 

WATCH: Health leaders pushing for COVID-19 vaccination among younger Texans

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