Gov. Abbott issues new order barring local officials from mandating masks, requiring vaccination

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday put out a new executive order that takes aim at local government-issued mask mandates and business capacity restrictions.

Abbott says the new executive order will ensure a uniform response to the pandemic and focuses on the individual responsibility of Texans to protect themselves.

“The new Executive Order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates,” Abbott said in a press release. “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.”

Under the new executive order, which was made by combining existing COVID-19 orders already in place, governmental entities and jurisdictions are barred from mandating mask wearing, including school districts.

Additionally, it stops those same governing bodies from requiring vaccination and prevents state agencies and political subdivisions from requiring proof of vaccination from individuals to enter a place or receive a service.

For local businesses, the order says they do not have to follow any local operating limits, but customers “are encouraged to follow the safe practices they have already mastered” like wearing masks and social distancing.

The order supersedes any orders implemented by local officials and stops them from jailing people who violate local COVID-19 orders.

This comes after Austin Mayor Steve Adler on Wednesday urged City Manager Spencer Cronk to enact a requirement that city employees be vaccinated for COVID-19. Ultimately the city said it could not do so due to Abbott’s order.

State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin) said in a statement Thursday night that Abbott is stopping local officials from keeping communities safe.

“This is beyond inaction — this is the governor tying the hands of health experts who are trying to keep Texans healthy as cases and hospitalizations increase,” Howard’s statement read, in part.

She went on to say this is particularly concerning as school begins in a few weeks, and children under the age of 12 can’t get the vaccine yet.

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced federal workers will be required to show vaccination proof or follow strict safety measures.

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