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Judge allows Dallas County mask mandate to stay in place, siding with Jenkins over Abbott

Judge Parker issued a temporary injunction on Abbott's order that public entities such as cities, counties and schools can't issue mask requirements or mandates.

DALLAS — Update: On Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked San Antonio's mask mandate. While the ruling is specific to San Antonio and Bexar County, it could signal to other jurisdictions in the legal process on mask mandates what a likely outcome could be.

A district court judge has sided with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins in his dispute with Gov. Greg Abbott over the county's mask mandate, allowing the mandate to stay in place.

Judge Tonya Parker issued a temporary injunction Wednesday on Abbott's order that public entities such as cities, counties and schools can't issue mask requirements or mandates. The injunction allows Jenkins' mask order -- and the mask requirements of local school districts -- to continue, for now.

Parker in her ruling said that Jenkins has shown that Dallas County residents "will suffer probable imminent and irreparable injury through County Judge Jenkins being precluded from exercising his authority" to require masks in public.

The judge noted that the highly transmissible delta variant threatens to overwhelm the healthcare system and has increased hospitalizations and death in Dallas County.

"Each of these bases for probable imminent and irreparable injury independently supports the issuance of the requested temporary injunction," the ruling said.

The temporary injunction will return Jenkins to "the position he was in" before Abbott's executive order that barred face mask requirements, the ruling said.

Parker set a hearing for Jan. 10 to review the temporary injunction, though attorneys for the state could file an appeal to Parker's ruling sooner than that.

In a news conference after the ruling was announced, Jenkins said it was a "victory for humans who live in Dallas County against the virus."

"We should not personalize this as 'us vs. them,'" Jenkins said. "It is all of us vs. the virus."

Read Parker's full ruling here.

The two sides had a lengthy hearing Tuesday, each giving their argument for and against a mask mandate in Dallas County.

"Not to listen to the experts strikes me as overly political or ludicrous," said Dr. Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist from UT Southwestern Medical Center who spoke in support of research that, he said, proves the effectiveness of masks.

Attorneys for Jenkins also presented documents and social media postings showing that Gov. Abbott, in his previous statewide orders and in his own social media postings, has at times praised the use and effectiveness of face coverings.

Jenkins, questioned by his own legal counsel Charla Aldous, was asked what his motivation was for defying Gov. Abbott and attempting to enact and enforce mask mandates at the local level.

"Do you have any motivation other than doing what you believe was in the best interest of our citizens?" asked Aldous.

"No motivation other than to save lives and tamp down illness," answered Jenkins.