Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough has gone to war with the public health bureaucracy in Montgomery County. In a lengthy statement posted to social media, Keough criticized a letter to the school districts by Dr. Charles Sims of the Montgomery County Health Authority.
Sims’ letter notes a rise in Covid-19 cases in Montgomery County coupled with the county’s low vaccination rate. It says that school districts should require unvaccinated students exposed to Covid-19 to quarantine for 14 days.
“Although public school districts are not allowed to mandate mask utilization due to Executive Order,” the letter states, “it is your responsibility to strongly recommend and require mask utilization and vaccination in any way permissible by law.”
Keough pushed back, arguing that quarantine was in violation of state orders. He reiterated that the decision to wear a mask or get vaccinated should be left to parents and students. Keough’s full statement is below:
“Recently a letter was circulated by Dr. Charles Sims who is the local health authority for Montgomery County Public Health, an independent agency. In this letter he suggested that if an unmasked and unvaccinated student or teacher is exposed to a positive COVID-19 case in the classroom they will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
This is a direct violation of Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 which states that no government agency or government official, including local health officials have the authority to mandate masks or require vaccinations or proof of a vaccination. Governor Abbott’s executive order GA-38 also suspends Chapter 81, Subchapter E, which under normal circumstances would allow a local health authority to issue control measures which could include quarantines. Because of this suspension Dr. Sims does not have this authority.
Texas law and the Executive Orders of the Governor are clear. No student shall be required to be in a mask while attending public school. No student shall be required to provide proof of a vaccine and no student shall be required to receive a vaccine.
While I fully support a parent’s right to require their child to wear a mask while attending school, or the student’s right to choose to wear a mask. Doing so is not a requirement by law at this time.
I also support the parent’s right to choose to vaccinate their child or not. We have ample supplies of vaccines in the county should they choose to do so. But again there is no requirement.
Our children have missed enough school and are severely at a disadvantage due to a year and a half of school being disrupted by COVID. I’m grateful to the state for ensuring our schools will remain open this school year. I know parents and students alike are ready to get back to normalcy.
Schools districts have guidance they will follow that is approved by their state regulatory agency in conjunction with state law and any executive orders of the Governor. Our districts have the resources and ability to help keep kids safe during the school year. But, we all need to practice some level of self-responsibility to help mitigate further spread of COVID. If you or your kids are sick keep them home. Keep your hands clean and sanitized. Make sure kids know how to properly wash their hands and provide them some sanitizer for their backpacks. While mask are not required, no parent or child will be prohibited from requiring or wearing a mask on their own.”