AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott released yet another executive order on Thursday clarifying the state government's stance on the mandating of masks and COVID-19 vaccines.
“Today’s executive order will provide clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State’s continued fight against COVID-19,” said Gov. Abbott. “The new Executive Order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates. 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.”
Abbott says Executive Order GA-38 combines several existing COVID-19 executive orders to promote statewide uniformity and certainty in the state's COVID-19 response.
The order restricts any state or local agency and any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means from mandating masks or requiring proof of vaccination.
According to the order, imposing any conflicting or inconsistent limitation by a local governmental entity or official, aka a “failure to comply with” this executive order, is subject to a fine of up to $1,000.
The Order suspends any other limitations or mandates by local governments in Texas and works 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."
The Order also mandates that all hospitals licensed under the Texas Health and Safety Code and all Texas state-run hospitals submit daily reports of hospital bed capacity to the Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Every public or private entity that administers a COVID-19 test is also mandated to report the results to the DSHS, regardless of if the result is positive or negative.
This comes as several Texas counties are recording rising rates of coronavirus. In Travis County, DSHS data shows that Austin-area ICU capacity has reached 1.8%, its lowest point since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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