Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, on Monday banned any entity in his state — including private businesses — from mandating coronavirus vaccines for workers or customers, expanding prior executive orders from his office that prohibited state government entities from imposing similar requirements.
Abbott’s move puts him at odds with some large corporations and with the Biden administration, which last month announced plans to require all employers with 100 or more workers to adopt vaccine mandates or testing regimens. A number of large private companies in Texas have issued mandates.
“If indeed the mandate now is everyone must be vaccinated or ... tested once a week, we will obviously comply by that mandate,” Doug Parker, chief executive of Fort Worth-based American Airlines, said in a Washington Post Live interview in September.
“All along, as we’ve been going through this, we have been considering mandates and may have done one on our own. But what we wanted to do was do everything we could first to encourage everyone to do so,” he said.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines last week gave until Dec. 8 for all employees to get vaccinated, or face possible termination. (Many U.S. airlines also are government contractors, which must meet a Dec. 8 federal deadline for vaccinations.) Telecom giant AT&T, also based in Dallas, in August ordered most of its management employees to get vaccinated by this Monday. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, headquartered in Houston, announced a similar move the same month.
Abbott called the Biden administration’s sweeping plan “yet another instance of federal overreach,” saying in his order that the administration is “bullying” private entities into vaccine mandates, hurting the livelihoods of Texans and threatening the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
Although the White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment, President Joe Biden appeared dismissive of earlier legal threats by a group of Republican governors including Abbott over his vaccine mandates, saying, “Have at it.”
Violators will face a fine up to $1,000, according to the order, which will remain in effect until the Republican-dominated Texas legislature passes law that formalizes it, Abbott said. The ban covers any person who objects to vaccination “for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.”
But Abbott, who is fully vaccinated, still urged those eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine to do so.
In July, Abbott restricted local governments and state entities from levying vaccine mandates. In March, he repealed mask mandates, an order which has since been overridden by some courts in the state.
Abbott is also facing political challenges from within his own party, whose most vocal members have railed against vaccine and mask mandates.
Don Huffines, a former Texas state senator who is challenging Abbott for the GOP candidacy in next year’s gubernatorial race, tweeted that Abbott’s move had been long overdue.
“Greg Abbott is a political windsock and today proves it,” he said. “He knows conservative Republican voters are tired of the vaccine mandates and tired of him being a failed leader.”
About 15 million Texans have been fully vaccinated, or just over half of the nation’s second-most populous state, according to The Washington Post COVID-19 tracker. The United States as a whole has vaccinated about 56 percent of its residents.
Texas’s deaths and new daily infections have been gradually falling in recent weeks, after the state suffered increases in both tallies this summer amid the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.
— The Washington Post