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Texas Gov. Abbott signs order banning cities from requiring COVID vaccines and masks

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a file image. (Ricardo Brazzziell/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)
July 30, 2021

On Thursday, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring cities and local governments from implementing COVID-19 vaccinations or masking requirements.

Abbott’s order, Executive Order (GA-38), states it is enacted, “To ensure that vaccines continue to be voluntary for all Texans and that Texans’ private COVID-19-related health information continues to enjoy protection against compelled disclosure.”

Abbott’s order came on the same day President Joe Biden mandated masks for all federal workers who aren’t vaccinated and directed the Department of Defense to look into mandating the vaccines for all military personnel. Biden also called on states to give $100 incentive payments for people to get vaccinated.

Under Abbott’s order, “No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization” and “State agencies and political subdivisions shall not adopt or enforce any order, ordinance, policy, regulation. rule, or similar measure that requires an individual to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the individual’s vaccination status for any COVJD-l9 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.”

Abbott’s order further states, “Any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means, including grants, contracts, loans, or other disbursements of taxpayer money, shall not require a consumer to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status for any
COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization. No consumer may be denied entry to a facility financed in whole or in part by public funds for failure to provide documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status.”

The order also bars state and local government agencies from mandating masks. The rule makes an exception for state-supported living centers, government-owned hospitals and government-operated hospitals to use “appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face masks.” The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and any county and municipal jails acting in line with guidance by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards also continue to implement masking policies where appropriate.

In a press release, Abbott’s office said the new order was issued to “promote statewide uniformity and certainty” in the state’s COVID-19 policies.

“The new Executive Order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates,” Abbot said. “Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19. They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities. Vaccines, which remain in abundant supply, are the most effective defense against the virus, and they will always remain voluntary – never forced – in the State of Texas.”

Texas State Teachers Association has called on Abbott to leave masking decisions in schools up to individual school districts. On Tuesday, ahead of Abbott’s executive order, the teacher’s union wrote, “If Gov. Abbott really cares about the health and safety of Texas students, educators and their communities, he will give local school officials and health experts the option of requiring masks in their schools.”

Reacting to Abbott’s order, Democrat Texas State Rep. Diego Bernal tweeted, “If he wasn’t running for office he’d be more responsible. Instead, people are going to get sick, or worse. Let that sink in.”