Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened to fine local officials and businesses
$1,000 for requiring people to wear face masks. His threat came by means of a July 29 executive order that also penalized local officials for enforcing various Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols. Abbott said the new order would "provide clarity and uniformity" in Texas's continued fight against COVID-19.
Abbot's July 29 order
said: "No governmental entity -- including a county, city, school district and public health authority -- and no government official may require any person to wear a face covering, or to mandate that another person wear a face covering." Any government entity or official who attempts to impose mask mandates will be subjected to a fine of up to $1,000, the order continued.
The executive order superseded "any face-covering requirement imposed by any local governmental entity or official." However, Abbot's order provided exceptions for medical and correctional facilities and allowed them to "continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings."
Abbott's executive order also indicated that there will no longer be operating limits related to COVID-19 imposed on any business establishment. The rule ensured "the ability of Texans to preserve livelihoods while protecting lives." Instead, the order called on Texans to follow "safe practices they have already mastered" – such as maintaining a distance of six feet from others and voluntarily wearing masks if social distancing was impossible.
In a July 29 press release
announcing the executive order, Abbott said his new ruling "emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates." He continued: "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." (Related: Texas Gov. Abbott ENDS statewide mask mandate and lifts all restrictions on businesses
Texas based its COVID-19 response on personal responsibility
The July 29 executive order from Abbott followed his May 18 mandate that prohibited local governments and school districts from issuing mask mandates. Abbott wrote on Twitter
: "The time for government mask mandates is over – now is the time for personal responsibility. Every Texan has the right to choose whether they will wear a masks or have their children wear masks." (Related: Coronavirus cases continue to drop in Texas after lifting mask mandate and reopening businesses
Texas's orders banning mask mandates conflicts with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC). Guidelines issued by the CDC
on July 27 called on people – including those fully vaccinated – to wear masks. Face coverings provide "protection from the [B16172] delta variant" and prevent its spread to others, the CDC added.
The CDC previously said that Americans fully inoculated against COVID-19 need not wear masks in indoor settings due to immunity provided by the vaccine. However, evidence of the COVID-19 vaccines' diminished effectiveness forced the CDC to walk back on its earlier advice.
Abbott's July 29 executive order also touched on the issue of vaccines and vaccine passports. "No governmental entity can compel any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization (EUA)," his order said. The Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were only granted EUA by the Food and Drug Administration
Furthermore, Abbott mandated that public and private entities cannot require individuals to provide "documentation regarding [their] vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine." The order applied to state agencies and political subdivisions who, under the rule, cannot mandate vaccine passports "as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place. The vaccine passport ban also applied to public or private entities receiving public funding.
"Vaccines, which remain in abundant supply, are the most effective defense against the virus. [They] will always remain voluntary – never forced – in the state of Texas," Abbot noted in his press release.
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