AUSTIN (Texas) — Texas Governor. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday to prohibit any entity, including private business, from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on workers and called on state lawmakers to pass a similar ban into law.
The move comes as the Biden administration prepares to issue rules that require employers with more 100 employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or have their workers tested weekly. Many major companies, including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, based in Texas, have indicated that they will abide by this federal mandate.
“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19,” Abbott wrote in his order.
Abbott, who was previously vaccinated and also later tested positive for COVID-19, noted in his order that “vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans.”
Abbott had previously prohibited vaccine mandates from state and local governments agencies. However, private companies have been able to make their own rules for workers until now. It was unclear if Abbott’s executive order would be challenged in court.
Abbott’s new order has political implications. The two-term Republican is facing pressure from two candidates in next year’s GOP primary, former state Sen. Don Huffines and former Florida Congressman and Texas state party chairman Allen West, have attacked Abbott’s COVID-19 policies and have strongly opposed vaccine mandates.
West announced this this week he tested positive for COVID-19 and has been hospitalized, but also tweeted he remains opposed to vaccine mandates.
Texas has seen a recent decrease in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. But a rising death toll from the recent surge caused by the delta variant has the state rapidly approaching 67,000 total fatalities since the pandemic began in 2020.
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