SAN ANTONIO – As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Texas climb to levels not seen since the beginning of the year, local officials have asked Gov. Greg Abbott to reverse his statewide prohibition on mask mandates in schools and government buildings.
On Thursday, Abbott responded with a new executive order that does the opposite — further removing tools from local governments to enact policies that public health experts say would help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including mask requirements, capacity limits and vaccine mandates.
In a statement, Abbott said the 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,” Abbott said in the statement. “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.”
Under the executive order, governmental entities cannot “compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.” Read the full order at the bottom of this article.
Likewise, “any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means” cannot require a consumer to provide proof of vaccination in order to receive services or enter. That language is similar to a bill Abbott signed earlier this summer.
The new order removes the ability of local officials to reduce business capacity if COVID-19 hospitalizations exceeded 15% of total hospital capacity in the region for seven consecutive days.
The executive order also makes clear that governmental entities, including school districts, cannot require face masks or enact other restrictions.
Abbott’s mandate comes a day after San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff penned a letter to the governor seeking his permission to allow schools to require face masks.
COVID-19 cases are surging throughout Texas and the rest of the country. On Wednesday, Texas reported 10,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time since Feb. 9.
Hospitalizations have also steadily increased through July. At the start of the month, roughly 140 people were hospitalized in Bexar County. That number has more than quadrupled, with 695 COVID-19 hospitalizations reported on Thursday.
Read the executive order below: