Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Wednesday barring any state or local mandates requiring people to be vaccinated against COVID, before calling on Texas legislators to vote it into law during the ongoing special legislative session.
The order was intended to fill a loophole, since he previously banned vaccination requirements for jabs under emergency use authorization. He also banned state and local mask mandates.
“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 released along with his executive order.
Nine counties, dozens of school districts and the city of El Paso have already defied Gov. Abbott’s mask mandate ban, and some of the state’s most populous counties have asked for court orders to overturn or block its enforcement. On Wednesday, Dallas County became the latest to obtain a court order blocking enforcement of the mask mandate ban.
“Although this is an important victory, it’s really not a victory against a person or an entity,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county’s leading elected official, said at a news conference. “It’s a victory for humans who live in Dallas County against the virus.”
As COVID hospitalizations across the US top 100,000 for the first time since the winter, meanwhile, the number of new cases reported daily in Texas appears to be peaking, while deaths and hospitalizations have continued to climb. COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record 14,255 on Wednesday, beating the Jan. 11 record of 14,218 reported by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The Texas Supreme Court has declined to block restraining orders against Abbott’s mask mandate ban. Also, the Texas Education Agency has, for now, suspended enforcement of the mask mandate ban in the state’s public school systems.
The latest order comes after Abbott himself tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, one of a handful of “breakthrough” infections reported among American politicians.
Abbott’s orders have faced some resistance, and Texas officials say they have stopped enforcing his ban on mask mandates in schools in recent days amid a flurry of legal challenges. Though Abbott hopes to be able to enforce it state-wide soon.