AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas is now open 100% — without any restrictions or limitations or requirements on businesses.
In a Monday tweet, Abbott — who has fiercely pushed for opening businesses during the pandemic — signed legislation prohibiting businesses in the state from requiring COVID-19 vaccine “passports” or any other information.
Not everyone is happy about it. Vijay Patel wanted to see support for those who do want to require proof of vaccination.
“If there’s a law there that helps us to get that done without having us taking all the burden and risk and enforcement that would that would truly help,” said Patel, who owns and manages several Austin hotels.
He says it’s been hard balancing CDC guidance– which includes getting COVID-19 shots– and state rules, which now ban proof of those shots.
“We have to be very, very cautious of what we enforce and what we don’t enforce,” said Patel, who is also the director of the Austin Hotel and Lodging Association.
According to the new law, businesses that violate the new rules become ineligible for state grants or contracts and could be denied licenses or permits.
But the legislation doesn’t mention what employers can mandate for their workers.
The exception is something the Texas Medical Association agrees with.
“There’s really no way to effectively ensure our patients’ safety without vaccination of our health care providers,” says Dr. John Carlo, a member of the Texas Medical Association COVID-19 task force who testified about this legislation.
But Dr. Carlo still has concerns about the law’s greater impact.
“We know there’s still a risk in our community. We don’t have all the answers about what is right and wrong for everyone but I do wish we had more flexibility,” he said.
The legislation doesn’t give the responsibility of enforcement to any particular agency, saying “each appropriate state agency” should ensure that businesses comply with the new rules.
Businesses can still require COVID-19 screening and other infection control protocols.
Abbott said back in April that he wouldn’t allow government-mandated proof of vaccination cards in order to travel.
“Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives,” he said in a video posted online. “We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.”
Abbott has recently been the subject of nationwide attention, due to other bills he’s signed into law this legislative session: namely one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
Senate Bill 8, also known as the Texas “heartbeat” bill, prohibits abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat — which can be as early as six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.
While the concept of a “vaccine passport” may be new to most Americans, such documents already exist.
The “passport” to prove yellow fever vaccination is technically called a certificate of vaccination or prophylaxis (ICVP), according to Frommers. It’s been around since 1959 and is commonly referred to as a “Carte Jaune,” or “Yellow Card.”
The certificate is required to be shown at border crossings, especially when travelers are coming from places where yellow fever is common.
Travelers out of South America, Africa, India and Asia all likely have to show their ICVPs, Frommers says.
Arguments in favor of “vaccine passports” include ensuring travel safety and helping encourage travel to skittish customers. Arguments against include violations of privacy and of personal freedom.
Some countries are already requiring such documentation, including Israel, which requires a “green passport” — to verify that someone has been vaccinated and/or recovered from COVID-19.