Not satisfied with banning mask mandates and undeterred by catching Covid-19 himself, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order on Wednesday banning local governments from imposing vaccine mandates.
The order comes as Covid cases and hospitalizations continue to skyrocket across Texas. One of the new cases belonged to Abbott. The governor’s office announced on August 17th that he tested positive and that he was receiving Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment. Abbot has since tested negative, and credited the vaccine as the reason his infection was, according to him, “brief” and “mild.”
Nevertheless, Abbott will not allow any local governments to impose mandatory vaccinations. “No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a Covid-19 vaccine,” the order issued Wednesday said. The order, which applies to all government agencies, states that any “public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds” cannot require a “consumer” to provide proof of vaccination in order to receive a service or enter a venue.
Abbott had already banned vaccine mandates earlier this month, but that order was based on the vaccines being under FDA emergency use authorization. The FDA issued full approval for the Pfizer vaccine this week, leading Abbott to issue a new ban with new language.
“Vaccine requirements and exemptions have historically been determined by the Legislature, and their involvement is particularly important to avoid a patchwork of vaccine mandates across Texas,” Abbott said in a statement on the governor’s website. Abbott also sent a letter to the state’s legislature, asking them to consider putting a ban on vaccine mandates into law.
Local governments may push back against Abbott’s order, as they have done with his ban on mask mandates. Some school districts — including Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio — issued mask mandates despite the governor’s order outlawing them. Judge Tonya Parker, of the 116th Civil District Court, blocked blocked Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in Dallas, and on Tuesday upheld her ruling that Abbott’s order violates the county’s ability to mitigate the spread of Covid. San Antonio, however, will have to remove its mask mandate for public schools following a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court handed down on Thursday.
Texas already has a relatively low vaccination rate, with just under 47 percent of residents ages 12 and older fully vaccinated. States with low vaccine uptake are seeing more hospitalizations and deaths than states with higher rates of vaccination. Texas is no exception. According to data from the CDC, the state has a seven-day average of 12,758 patients hospitalized with the virus, which is only 1,000 patients away from surpassing the state’s last hospitalization peak in January. The surge in Covid patients has brought the state’s hospital system to near capacity, with ICUs approaching 94-percent capacity, according to HHS, while some emergency rooms have shuttered due to lack of staff and resources.