Austin Can Keep Its Mask Mandate for Now, Texas Judge Rules

A district judge in Texas has allowed Austin and the surrounding Travis County to keep requiring masks, weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott ended the state’s mask mandate.

Ken Paxton, the state’s attorney general, sued local officials earlier this month for refusing to comply and said that county leaders “must not be thinking clearly.”

A state District Judge Lora Livingston denied the state’s request on Friday to quash a local order allowing officials to keep enforcing mask-wearing in Austin and Travis County. She ruled that the state did not meet “its burden to demonstrate the right to the relief it seeks,” according to a decision letter.

Mr. Paxton is expected to appeal the ruling, which means that officials could be forced to lift the mandate later.

trailed the national average. The move was met with sharp criticism from President Biden, who called the lifting of statewide mask mandates “a big mistake” that reflected “Neanderthal thinking.”

The ending of the mandate also frustrated some frontline workers in Texas who said they were worried about the risk of being exposed to maskless customers and crowds, even though they had not been vaccinated yet.

Reported coronavirus cases and deaths have steadily dropped nationwide after a post-holiday surge, though progress is starting to stall and health officials have warned about the spread of more contagious variants. The United States is still reporting an average of 60,000 new cases each day, according to a New York Times database.

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As U.S. Restaurants Reopen, Their Workers Ask for Vaccines

More and more of the United States has relaxed restrictions on indoor dining, but the number of states allowing workers in the restaurant industry to get a Covid-19 vaccine has been slow to rise.

Almost every state is vaccinating some subset of essential workers, following a recommendation by a committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the rollout of the vaccine to workers in the restaurant industry has been inconsistent.

Only about a third of states — at least 16 — have allowed some restaurant workers to get shots, according to a New York Times survey, though some workers are only eligible in certain counties. In comparison, at least 26 states and Washington, D.C., have begun allowing grocery store workers to be vaccinated.

Texas this week allowed all businesses to fully open, and places like New York City and New Jersey announced a loosening of indoor dining limits. How soon states give shots to restaurant workers has become an urgent question for workers in an industry that has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

decimated” the industry and that vaccinating them would prevent further job loss.

“There is no more important step the governor can take to get Michigan’s economy back on track,” Justin Winslow, president of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, said in a statement.

A bartender in Austin, Texas, Jeannette Gregor, said in a phone interview that she and her coworkers responded with “anger, frustration and fear” after Gov. Greg Abbott lifted all limits on indoor dining along with other coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday. Texas has not made restaurant workers eligible for shots.

Ms. Gregor said she has helped organize rallies in support of prioritizing restaurant workers for the vaccines with advocacy groups like the Restaurant Organizing Project.

petition. “These vaccinations can no longer wait.”

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When Your West Wing Job Is Really, Really Far From the Oval Office

Before Ms. Pelton accompanied Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, on a trip to the border with Mexico last week, “I hadn’t left the island since last February,” she said.

“Trump always spoke in negative terms about the government and the island and how corrupt it was,” Ms. Pelton continued. “When we, the Biden administration, are unlocking some of those funds, it’s a big deal in the paper. I see how closely the local press is reporting on what the administration is doing and how it impacts the island.”

For now, Ms. Pelton said, the benefits of that perspective and a safe schooling setup outweighed the loss of networking with her colleagues. “There are colleagues that need to be in because of classified information,” she said. “I can do this from my bedroom.”

Maggie Thomas, 33, was named the chief of staff of the domestic climate policy office in January. She still has not met Ms. McCarthy, her boss, in person. In July, Ms. Thomas, who had been living in Boston while working for Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, packed up a Dodge Caravan with her boyfriend and drove across the country to move into a house across the street from her parents in Sacramento.

“My dad was very high risk for Covid, and being so far away really compelled me to be part of the community and part of their everyday life,” she said. “I now have a full 180-degree view of my childhood home.”

Ms. Thomas said she had grown comfortable in her routine at home. “I imagine I’ll eventually move to Washington,” she said, “but we are learning how to run a government remotely.”

Living in California also meant experiencing the effects of climate change as more than erratic lines on a chart. “There were a good three or four weeks after the wildfires, when the air quality was so dangerous we couldn’t even go outside,” Ms. Thomas said. “When you live through not being able to go outside, it starts to take on new meaning.”

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