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'What if a child dies on my watch?' Austin ISD superintendent speaks out against inability to enforce masks

An executive order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott prevents entities that get funding from the state from enforcing mask or vaccine mandates.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: Austin ISD decided Aug. 9 to require masks for all students, staff and visitors. This goes against an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott.

In an interview with CNN, Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde spoke out against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order preventing schools from enforcing face mask mandates.

This comes as Texas is seeing another surge in cases and hospitalizations, and as Austin-area ICUs have seen an increased strain on capacity.

While getting a tour of a local school, CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro asked Elizalde if she thought it was safe to send kids back to school despite no mask requirements:

"It is safe. It is not as safe as it could be," she said. "So, again, as simple as the word sounds, we have to keep balancing it out."

RELATED: Austin ISD: What to expect when school starts

Elizalde said many safety protocols will be in place when school begins in the next few weeks, such as air filters, plexiglass, social distancing and grouping students in closely monitored pods. Outdoor learning spaces have also been created in some schools.

Elizalde said she wants to enforce masks, even though she can't.

"I have in my mind, 'What if a child dies on my watch?' How do I go say to you, 'I'm really sorry, we did everything we could. The governor's executive order kept me from ...' What does that do to a parent?" Elizalde said.

According to CNN, there are other states where mask mandates are banned: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah, Arizona, Iowa and South Carolina. Florida's governor has also banned mask mandates.

Due to a federal mask mandate for public transportation, AISD will still be able to enforce face masks on school buses.


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