Texas governor bans all COVID-19 vaccine mandates, including by private businesses
Biden administration set to require that employers with more than 100 workers ensure employees are vaccinated
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Monday to prohibit any entity — including private businesses — from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on workers, and he called on state lawmakers to pass a similar ban into law.
The move comes as the Biden administration is set to issue rules requiring employers with more than 100 workers ensure their employees are either vaccinated or tested weekly for the coronavirus.
"No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19," Abbott wrote in his order.
Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines rebuffed the state's governor Tuesday, reiterating that they would comply with President Joe Biden's executive order and require their employees be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the Dec. 8 deadline. In fact, both carriers have asked their U.S.-based employees to submit proof of vaccination by Nov. 24.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the ban is out of step with businesses in the state, and was motivated by politics, not science.
"When you make a choice that's against all public health information and data out there, then it's not based on what is in the interest of the people you are governing," she said.
Abbott, who was previously vaccinated and also later tested positive for COVID-19, noted in his order that "vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans."
Montana has passed a law preventing employers from mandating that workers get vaccines, and a number of states have explicitly said schools cannot require vaccinations.
Abbott previously barred vaccine mandates by state and local government agencies but until now had let private companies make their own rules for their workers. It was not immediately clear if his latest executive order would face a quick court challenge.
The new order carries political implications. The two-term Republican is facing pressure from two candidates in next year's Republican primary: former state senator Don Huffines and former Florida Congressman and Texas state party chairman Allen West. Both have attacked Abbott's COVID-19 policies and have strongly opposed vaccine mandates.
"He knows which way the wind is blowing. He knows conservative Republican voters are tired of the vaccine mandates and tired of him being a failed leader," Huffines tweeted.
West announced this week that he tested positive for COVID-19 and has been hospitalized, but he also tweeted he remains opposed to vaccine mandates.
Texas has seen a recent decrease in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. But a rising death toll from the recent surge caused by the delta variant has the state rapidly approaching 67,000 total fatalities since the pandemic began in 2020.
With files from Reuters