Texas Governor Bars Mask and Vaccination Mandates
Many states, cities, businesses and schools have been scrambling to institute new terms since Tuesday, when federal health officials recommended that even fully vaccinated people again wear masks in indoor public spaces in hot spots around the world. Delta variant and urged universal masking in schools.
In an executive order issued Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott, Republican governor of the nation’s second-largest state, banned local governments and state agencies from requiring vaccines, saying protection against the virus should be an issue of personal responsibility and not forced by a government decree.
The ordinance also strengthened its earlier directive banning local authorities from requiring face masks, despite growing calls from city leaders for more flexibility to reverse the further spread of Covid.
As of Friday, the daily average of Texas cases was 8,820, according to a New York Times database, an increase of 209% over the past 14 days. Cities across the state are facing an increase in hospitalizations reminiscent of alarming spikes that occurred before Covid cases began to decline with the arrival of vaccines.
With 56% of the state’s population unvaccinated – including nearly five million children under the age of 12 who are ineligible – health officials have expressed concern about the state’s vulnerability.
Mr Abbott is hardly the only elected official to have responded defiantly to the CDC’s new guidelines. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed an executive order rejecting school mask mandates and giving parents the final say on their children’s mask wear.
“In Florida there will be no closures,” DeSantis said to cheers at a restaurant in Cape Coral, Florida. “There will be no school closures. There will be no restrictions and no warrant.
But Mr. Abbott’s executive order went further. “No government entity can force an individual to receive a Covid-19 vaccine administered as part of an emergency use authorization,” the order says. It also prohibits any public body or private entity receiving public funds, including grants and loans, from requiring consumers to present vaccination documents before entering or receiving service from the entity.
The ordinance encourages public safety measures such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing, especially in areas with high transmission rates, but adds: “No person can be compelled by a court to wear or require the wearing of a face cover. “
Mr Abbott, who faces re-election next year, is not against vaccines. He was pictured taking a photo of Covid at an Austin hospital on December 22, saying he wanted to show fellow Texans how “safe and easy” it was, according to the Texas Tribune.
And in a statement expanding on his order, Mr Abbott said vaccines “are the most effective defense against the virus” and “remain in abundance.”
But he stressed that vaccinations “will always remain voluntary – never forced – in the state of Texas.”
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