Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order blocking cities and government entities in the state from requiring masks or vaccines, according to multiple news outlets.
Abbott, a Republican, issued a statement saying the executive order combines "several existing COVID-19 executive orders to promote statewide uniformity and certainty in the state’s COVID-19 response."
The new executive order is aimed at counties, cities, school districts, and public health officials receiving government funding, The Washington Post reported.
Newsweek reported the order strengthens and expands statewide restrictions on mask and vaccine mandates.
"Today’s executive order will provide clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State’s continued fight against COVID-19," Abbott said in a statement. "The new 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. 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. Vaccines, which remain in abundant supply, are the most effective defense against the virus, and they will always remain voluntary — never forced — in the state of Texas."
The latest order by Abbott came as the seven-day average of new cases in Texas stood at 6,659 on Wednesday — nearly double that of the 3,901 cases the week before, Newsweek noted.
And the Post said the order makes official Abbott’s repeated stance that he was not going to enforce mask or vaccine mandates in the state.
The newspaper pointed out that Abbott said vaccines are the most effective way to defend against COVID-19 but would never be required in the state.
The Texas State Teachers Association had said it wanted Abbott to pull back his ban on mask mandates and it called for individual school districts to make the decision.
"If Gov. Abbott really cares about the health and safety of Texas students, educators and their communities, he will give local school officials and health experts the option of requiring masks in their schools," said Ovidia Molina, president of the teachers’ union.
The Post said Abbott’s order came as President Joe Biden said all federal workers must receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Those who don’t will be required to wear a mask and be tested for the virus.
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