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Texas AG sues city of Austin over Covid-19 dining restrictions for New Year's weekend

Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the city, its mayor, Travis County and a judge over new coronavirus guidelines amid a surge in cases.
Ken Paxton
Texas' Attorney General Ken Paxton waits for Vice President Mike Pence at Love Field in Dallas on June 28, 2020.Tony Gutierrez / AP file

The Texas AG sued the city of Austin on Wednesday after local officials placed new Covid-19 restrictions on dining services for the New Year’s weekend.

Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, filed a petition for temporary injunction and a temporary restraining order in Travis County District Court against the directive, which limited restaurants to drive-thru, curbside pickup, takeout, and delivery services between 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Thursday to Sunday.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown, both Democrats, introduced the new four-day restriction to limit social gatherings over the holiday weekend after the state reported a record number of hospitalizations and new cases.

In a letter on Wednesday, Paxton said the new directive violated a previous order by Gov. Greg Abbott and directed both officials to rescind or modify the order.

“Mayor Adler and Judge Brown do not have the authority to flout Gov. Abbott’s executive orders by shutting down businesses in Travis County and our state’s capital city,” Paxton said in a statement. “The fact that these two local leaders released their orders at night and on the eve of a major holiday shows how much contempt they have for Texans and local businesses."

Paxton's lawsuit names Adler, Brown, the city of Austin and Travis County as defendants.

Adler said on Wednesday he consulted with doctors, educators and city attorneys, calling the city of Austin in “critical” condition.

“We are now facing our most dangerous surge prospects,” he said during a news conference.

Brown called the order “the most narrowly tailored thing we could think of” to curb the spread of the coronavirus over New Year’s weekend.

Dr. Mark Escott, medical director of the city of Austin and Travis County, urged residents to “stay home as much as possible and not gather with people outside their households.”

“We are now experiencing uncontrolled widespread community transmission of COVID-19, particularly in circumstances where masking and distancing are not possible, making bars and similar establishments extremely concerning over this holiday weekend,” Escott said in a statement.

Texas logged a record of almost 12,000 hospitalizations and 27,000 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, according to the state health department’s Covid-19 dashboard.

As of Thursday, Travis County has recorded a total of 49,648 confirmed cases and 534 deaths, according to the data.