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'Local governments and health departments need maximum flexibility more than ever' | New reaction to Gov. Abbott's order limiting COVID controls

The order prohibits local governments from mandating masks or requiring vaccinations.

HOUSTON — She's unvaccinated so far, but current events have Lois Sacco reconsidering a COVID-19 shot.

"Things such as the Delta variant,” Sacco said.

She said it will be on her terms when and if she gets vaccinated.

"Government telling me that I have to get a vaccine or have to wear a mask," Sacco said. "I don’t agree with it, because it takes my individuality.”

Sacco supported Governor Greg Abbott's latest executive order which prohibits local government entities and others from imposing mask mandates or vaccinations and strips their previous power to limit occupancy levels based on COVID-related hospitalizations.

"You know, vaccination rates differ, transmission rates differ,” said Katelyn Jetelina, UT School of Public Health epidemiologist.

Her biggest issue with the order is putting all of Texas under the same umbrella knowing that COVID conditions vary greatly from region to region.

"We need local authorities and local leadership to really make those decisions for their communities,” Jetelina said.

“The virus continues to adapt, so cities and public health agencies need the flexibility to make progress in lessening the spread of this disease, the number of people gravely ill, and the growing demand on our hospital systems,” the Houston Health Department said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Harris County Public Health told KHOU 11 it will continue to make recommendations that best protect and educate the community in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county raised its threat level to orange or “significant risk” just last week.

But it can only strongly recommend people wear masks or get vaccinated.

Dalea Reuter encouraged people to do both.

"Because a lot of people, you don’t know if they’re vaccinated or not," Reuter said. "And they’re not wearing a mask."

It’s important to note that private businesses, organizations or private schools can still impose mandates along with hospitals and jails.

Houston Health Department's full statement:

"Given the current surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the more aggressive Delta variant, local governments and health departments need maximum flexibility more than ever. The virus continues to adapt, so cities and public health agencies need the flexibility to make progress in lessening the spread of this disease, the number of people gravely ill, and the growing demand on our hospital systems. It’s critical to combat the pandemic in as many ways as possible since only roughly half of Houston and Texas residents age 12 and older are fully vaccinated."

Harris County Public Health's full statement:

"Harris County Public Health has and will continue to make recommendations that best protect and educate the community in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the continued rise in cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations, we encourage residents to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible and continue COVID-19 prevention practices such as wearing face coverings, social distancing and washing their hands."