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Judges in Harris County implement mask mandate

It’s what all the responsible public officials are doing.

State judges in Harris County voted unanimously Tuesday to implement a mask mandate in courthouses that will supersede Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on such mandates, according to three judges who participated in the meeting.

The anticipated courthouse ban comes as Dallas County officials and school officials in districts across the state have begun bucking up against Abbott’s latest coronavirus ban, which prioritizes Texans’ right to make their own choices over the health emergency.

The local judges’ order comes amid a surge of COVID-19 infections boosted by the delta variant. The judges, who asked to remain anonymous because the order was not yet official, said the mandate should go into effect imminently, as soon as it is signed by an administrative judge.

The new rule calls for masks to be used by everyone — vaccinated or not — inside civil, criminal, family and juvenile court buildings. County Attorney Christian Menefee said it would also apply to county judges if they are in a shared building with district judges.

The state judges’ mandate follows a memo Friday from the Office of Court Administration that informed judges, clerks and court staff that the infection, hospitalization and death rates have recently spiked and that they have power to enact rules independent of the executive branch. This delineation of executive and judicial power derives from the Texas Constitution, but also the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution, according to judges, lawyers and law professors interviewed by the Chronicle.

The state courts take their direction on operation orders from the Texas Supreme Court, which allows judges to continue holding hearings remotely and to “modify or suspend any and all deadlines and procedures, and take any other reasonable action to avoid exposing court proceedings and participants to the threat of COVID-19,” according to the Friday memo from court administration in Austin.

[…]

“My understanding is that judges have been free to handle this whatever way they want,” said Menefee, the county attorney. “The Supreme Court has allowed judges to retain their authority to set conditions for their own courts. The Texas Supreme Court has not politicized the issue by issuing a rule.”

Menefee declined to comment on whether the county is contemplating a mask mandate for employees.

This has come up before, with Williamson County implementing a similar mandate last week, following Dallas and Bexar counties. I noted it in passing here, as it happened at the same time as the city of Houston mask mandate for its employees. So far, no pushback from Abbott or Paxton on either of those, and as such it is reasonable to assume this will pass by without fallout as well. Until it does draw a response, I guess – I can’t figure out what those guys are thinking right now. Maybe they’re too busy with all the lawsuits. I expect this will come up at the next Harris County Commissioners Court meeting, and I look forward to seeing what they do given the current set of facts on the ground.

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22 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    So why then don’t they admit that the vaccines aren’t working? Why the rush to get everyone vaccinated? Why nothing about the failure of the Biden administration?

  2. policywonqueria says:

    Q & A FOR SIMPLETONS

    Q: Why nothing about the failure of the Biden administration?
    A: Because blaming (and blame-shifting, and scape-goating) does nothing to contain the virus and limit its spread.

    People using their brains know that. One doesn’t even have to be particularly bright or educated to understand that, though this group obviously is.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    policywonq: So, those of us with brains who said that the “it’s all Trump’s fault” news reports, those of us who said that was all a detriment to stopping the spread, we should all be praised? And receive special medallions? Because, I did say that just saying Bad Orange Man is not helping anything, but new media persisted in the blame game. They even said that Gov. Cuomo was a hero, who did everything a president should do! That’s what I call the Big Lie. We need to tell the people that the Biden administration is failing: can’t contain Covid, kids in cages, border crisis, crime and mass shootings, and CNN needs to report this, because most people won’t believe it otherwise, and they will vote based on a Big Lie.

  4. C.L. says:

    I’m shocked that the MSM isn’t following your lead or reporting on what you want them to report on, Dr. Hochman.

    Sounds like you need you need to file a (TX) Congressional Inquiry with your representative, Ms. Penny Morales Shaw, and ask her to get to the bottom of this ! Time to weed out these Communists…eer…whoops, I mean…Pro-Maskers at the CDC !

  5. Mainstream says:

    Jason, the reason no one will admit that the vaccines are not working is simply because THE VACCINES ARE WORKING. Look at the low incidence of transmission in Vermont, the most vaccinated state, for proof. That some vaccinated persons have become sick does not show a fault in the vaccines. That mostly unvaccinated persons are dying shows that vaccines are having a beneficial effect.

  6. Flypusher says:

    “ So why then don’t they admit that the vaccines aren’t working?”

    They are working. Look at the vaccinated vs unvaccinated numbers in new infections/hospitalizations/ and deaths. This is a wave of the unvaccinated. But you persist in 2 major intellectual dishonesties. The first one is your obvious all or nothing assumption about vaccines “working”. We were told that the effectiveness of the vaccines are determined by immune response, and even then they were not 100% effective. We were warned that new variants could evolve (like delta), and the vaccines could have reduced effectiveness (the vaccines look to be protecting from death by delta, but are less effective in stopping an a symptomatic but infected vaccinated person from spreading virus). The numbers make it very clear that your odds of a bad outcome are greatly reduced by being vaccinated, which is as good a promise as any other vaccine can give.

    Intellectual dishonesty #2, a bordering on evil omission of the most pertinent fact- that children under 12 cannot yet get vaxxed. If all the eligible people had gotten their shots we probably wouldn’t be rehashing the stupid mask battles, but they didn’t so it’s deja vu all over again. Those kids need protecting until the vax is approved for them. Herd immunity was the best option, but the spreaders of falsehood are hellbent on making sure that we can’t have nice things.

  7. policywonqueria says:

    Story title reports a fact: “Judges in Harris County implement mask mandate.”

    Kuff responds with a quikky opinion approving of what the judges did, and recommending that others follow suit.

    You may have a different opinion, and – if so – you are free to state it, and support it with reasoning and reference to facts/evidence. That’s the idea of having a meaningful discussion on a matter of public concern: A problem and what to do about it in terms of public policy and better rules for operations in public administration.

    If you were in our Public Policy for Beginners class, Jason, we might give you an essay assignment requiring you to identify the pros and cons of doing what the Harris County judges did, and whether school districts, for example, should follow their lead.

    You would have to analyze means-and-ends relationship (efficacy of alternative measures and related costs and downsides), identify what’s at stake for different affected constituencies, and then apply your analysis to a different setting, which would require you to evaluate whether it makes sense to equate judges and court staff with teachers and school administrator, and people that come to court with pupils. And whether the contagion risks are different in a courthouse vs. a school building based on physical layout and flow of people and patterns of spending time in congregation. Then you would have to consider the age composition of the relevant populations, differences in vulnerability, and so on.

    What’s your ranting about Biden and Cuomo got to do with any of it?

    How does it advance the quality of the problem solving, or at least the public understanding of the relevant issues?

    Unlike Kuff, you are not even offering a summary assessment, nor are you suggesting any alternative approach or possible solution to the identified problem that we are confronting as a community at the local level.

    Nor are you providing additional information or links to such resources.

    So what are you doing here?

    Other than wasting the time of folks who have a genuine interest in a meaningful exchange of thoughs and information.

  8. Flypusher says:

    When the Biden administration tells bald-faced lies about the pandemic (it will just disappear, like a miracle), or touts quackery like bleach or hydroxychloroquine, then we will stop pointing and laughing at your flailing whataboutism.

  9. Flypusher says:

    My $ is on paid troll.

  10. Bill Daniels says:

    There must be some accommodation made for those who are unable to comply with this edict for medical reasons, religious/conscience reasons, etc. Say you are selected for jury service, or you are otherwise required to be in the courthouse, and you have reason why you cannot or should not restrict your breathing with a mask….what accommodations are being offered?

    I could see an Americans with Disabilities Act claim being made here, PARTICULARLY with the case of jurors, who are compelled by law to show up, in person, under penalty of imprisonment where, ironically enough, they can also be subject to mask mandates, and NO protection by Abbott’s edict.

    @ Wolf,

    This is, after all, a political blog, so pointing out the political ramifications of public policy seems like fair game; I could be wrong, of course. And hey, without gadflies, who will be here to put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional?

  11. policywonqueria says:

    Bill: Surely, the Honorables of Harris County are aware of ADA requirements even though it’s a federal law, and even when they act in their administrative/rule-making capacities. So, you can expect those provisions to be included in whatever the actual order will say.

    And if Harris County qua County (District Courts are state courts, county courts are not, or less so in the murky sense) makes its own broader order, surely they too will have adequate legal talent on staff to get it right.

  12. Jason Hochman says:

    “They are working. Look at the vaccinated vs unvaccinated numbers in new infections/hospitalizations/ and deaths. ‘

    All that I can say is that I saw an anti vaxx maniac called Gert Van Den Boessch on You Tube. He predicted that the specificity of the vaccines would cause immune escape and variants, which would then be blamed on the unvaccinated. I thought he was full of applesauce, but he turned out to be prescient.

    There is a better vaccine on the horizon. That’s the science. The vaccinated are the super spreaders, I saw Michael Rapaport on You Tube, telling them to get it right.

    Now I’ve gotta get to work on my easy assignment. The quirky opinion provided offers no evidence in its support. I can only refer you to the rigorous clinical trials that show no specific benefit to mask wearing and also to the published studies that show very low risk of asymptomatic spread. The best thing to do–if you are sick, stay home from work, school, court, etc.

  13. Flypusher says:

    You neglect to mention that Gert has COI here, as he’s trying to sell his own treatments, which by the way don’t look to have been tested according to the accepted standards.

    Also him predicting that new variants would appear because of vaccines is just as valid as me predicting new variants would appear because Trump lost. Viruses mutate and change, with or without vaccines, because that is their nature, and because the creatures they infect have immune systems. A vaccine is just giving an immune system advance notice of what it’s going to face. Gert’s approach to herd immunity has a higher body count than is morally acceptable to me.

  14. C.L. says:

    I liked it better when Jason ranted about people parking their cars across sidewalks. At least that made some sense…

  15. policywonqueria says:

    ROT — AND INCOMPETENCY — AT THE TOP

    When asked if he has the power to step in, according to the Houston Chronicle, Biden replied on Tuesday, “I don’t believe that I do thus far. We’re checking that.”

    Yah, the hallowed police powers belong to the states, but why not get a little creative when it comes to the imperative of survival of all, not just the smart ones.

    So, how about a Congressional Declaration of War against Delta. And War Powers to fight the virus. Couldn’t that federalize things a bit and provide a plausible basis for federal preemption of whatever it is that morons in Texas and Florida are not doing?

    SWIFT INSPIRATION

    Further, by way of a more modest proposal, has anyone looked into declaring King Gregory of Texas non compos mentis?

    Wouldn’t and couldn’t and shouldn’t incompetency render any signed pandemic-promotion order null and void?

    Like this one:

    https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/EO-GA-38_continued_response_to_the_COVID-19_disaster_IMAGE_07-29-2021.pdf
    (purporting to fight the declared disaster by prohibiting local governments from fighting the declared disaster).

  16. Bill Daniels says:

    “….but why not get a little creative when it comes to the imperative of survival of all, not just the smart ones.

    So, how about a Congressional Declaration of War against Delta.”

    May I respectfully remind you of someone else who felt that way, and what we, as a nation got, because people fell for the siren song of safety over liberty? I’m speaking, of course, of W. Bush’s ironically named Patriot Act. Remember that assault on the rights of the citizenry? Remember when leftists like yourself vociferously opposed that (along with the libertarian leaning-American community, by the way)?

    And let’s see what one of those old, dead, white dudes had to say about this:

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    ~Ben Franklin

    Let me lay it out for you, Wolf. I’d rather lose the 1% of our population that might, might, die of the Wu flu vs. the people of the United States being forced to live on their knees. Of course, if you really care about the lives of Americans, you could join me and others in demanding that Ivermectin and HCQ be made OTC, so anyone that wants to, can take them. I mean, we do have a Right-to-Try law, thanks to Trump. If you think those drugs, along with azithromycin, zinc, Vitamin C and D, etc. are completely useless against Covid….SO WHAT? That’s your opinion. Let others who WANT to try it, try it. How would that hurt you?

  17. Jason Hochman says:

    What products is VAnden Bossche trying to sell? His Web site offers nothing for sale, however, he does have Univac which is trying to invent universal vaccines that use NK cells, but I don’t see that he has a COVID Univac product. But let’s be clear, that the people promoting the pandemic have cashed in handsomely. Are Moderna, Pfizer, J&J not getting rich? Is Fauci’s NIAID not a stakeholder in Moderna? Aren’t all of the billionaires heading out to space, and leaving us peasants here to die? The universities and hospitals that do The Science and medical treatment are largely underwritten by federal money so that they are obliged to go along with the conventional ideas of the government.

    So what is your point? That Vanden Bossche is somehow less reliable than those people? What do you mean by a higher body count? It is shocking that people are such shit at accepting the temporal nature of life. Is the object to just live as long as possible, even if you are not able to do anything?

    For more evidence about masks, think about this…when someone is smoking and you got a mask on, can you smell the smoke? Well, smoke particles are 195 nm, and the COVID virus is 125 nm. Can it get through your mask, maybe?

  18. C.L. says:

    Equating everything that came with the Patriot Act to a suggested push to combat a deadly, global virus may be the best yet from this troll. And that’s saying something.

  19. policywonqueria says:

    Sir Daniels,

    Here at policywonqueria, we are no patriots, misguided ones or otherwise, but fact-and-science-friendly transethnic humanitarian cosmopolitian universalists, or some melange thereof. And believe in the gospel of human betterment, going forward.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Swift, Nightshifter on Duty for the Occidental Hemi-Sphere

    For further elucidation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Modest_Proposal

    WISDOM OF THE ROD

    P.S.: On quoting Ben Franklin and for what … Would it affect the functionality and utility of the lighting rod if Poor Richard’s progenotor was – as post-humourously rumoured — a member of an underground sex club in the old country, and if he lit up a lot of courtly ladies as our emissary in France with his own personal rod?

    We wouldn’t answer in the affirmative. Why? Because on that high-tension issue, it’s the science and the engineering that matters.

    Sir Hochman: Would you kindley divulge the difference between particulate matter and chemicals in gaseous state, and how that might or might not relate to viruses in relation to filters/permeability of materials used as masks?

  20. Jason Hochman says:

    Aren’t all chemicals in a gaseous state particulate matter? The atmosphere around us has weight, and mass, it is made from particles, called molecules. The molecules that are found in smoke are particles, and viruses are other particles, that are also matter. I don’t know how likely they are to permeate a mask…but clinical trials show little efficacy for masks. But they might work a little, I just don’t know. You should do your own research.

    It is not a troll to compare the Patriot Act to other tyrannical measures to combat a virus. The Patriot Act was for our safety. The Patriot Act is still with us after almost twenty years. There is no reason to believe that we will ever have a government that gives up the powers that it seized to keep us safe this time. From the beginning, they were softening us up for this reality, with terms like “new normal” “build back better” “great reset”

    The pandemic has caused the biggest wealth transfer in history. Big pharma is having a big payday. The billionaires are going out to space and leaving us on a dying planet. I never want to hear another leftist decry the greed of Big Pharma, or talk about taxing wealth, or eating the rich, or anything else that the leftists wanted to happen, but then they changed their tune and wanted the rich to take over everything. To keep us safe serfs.

  21. Bill Daniels says:

    Wolf,

    I wonder if any of the personalities that make up your consortium have read Edgar Allen Poe’s “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether.”

    I ask, because that’s kind of what it feels like these days…..the inmates running the asylum. If I recall correctly, there was also an original Star Trek episode with this very theme. And now here we are, in a “life imitates art” surreal world where some men have periods and some women have penises.

  22. policywonqueria says:

    PARTICULATE MATTER

    Jason, if you don’t know the difference between solid, liquid, and gaseous states perhaps you should refrain from preaching about the supposed ineffectiveness of face masks.

    It’s all about atoms and molecules. — Duh! How is that level of generality helpful?

    As for noxious particles in the air you and we have no choice but to breathe, look no further than here: https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/particulate-matter-pm-basics

    And you obviously have the great weight of the medicial and public health community against you on the problem at hand. Why should anyone listen to you and take your advice on masks seriously?

    PURE QUESTION OF PROCLAMATION

    That said, you and your Governor have something in common: an obstinate refusal to consider the evidence against the position that you have bunkered down on. Just digging themselves in even deeper instead of keeping a clear and open mind, and revising tactics and strategy in light of newly available data and insights.

    And pretty soon we can expect the Texas Supreme Court to proclaim that Delta spread evidence is immaterial [sic] because the question of whether Abbott gets to stop pandemic-containment efforts at the local level is “a pure question of law” within the purview of the judicial department.

    Reality defiance with judicial imprimature.

    We have already seen in in the election litigation last year. Trial judges get rhetorically clobbered by their superiors in the judicial pecking order for considering evidence and listening to experts.