AUSTIN, Texas - As COVID-19 cases continue to soar in Central Texas, people in Austin and Travis County are awaiting new Stage 5 recommendations. However, they will be just that—recommendations—thanks to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning mask and vaccine mandates, which is coming under new scrutiny from the White House.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden slammed Abbott and other governors for taking action to prevent such mandates, saying it forbids people from doing the right thing.
In his executive order last week, Gov. Abbott outlawed vaccine requirements by state and local government agencies. The order also bans any private or public entity receiving public funds, from requiring proof of vaccination.
Additionally, under Abbott’s order, no government within our state can require masks—meaning individual school districts will not be able to mandate them. Biden says that is especially concerning given that young children are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
In remarks Tuesday afternoon, Biden called out Texas by name for its policies. "The most extreme of those measures is like the one in Texas saying state universities or community colleges could be fined if it allows a teacher to ask her unvaccinated students to wear a mask," Biden.
President Biden also pointed out Texas’ relatively low vaccination rates, implying that is connected to a surge in cases in our state. Just two states, Florida and Texas, account for one-third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country," said Biden.
Without mentioning Abbott by name, Biden added, "Some governors aren't willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, if you aren't going to help at least get out of the way."
In a previous statement, Gov. Abbott defended his executive order, saying Texans "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."
President Biden’s comments come as a spike in cases and hospitalizations is forcing Austin and Travis County to go back into Stage 5 guidelines.
Local health officials say that will likely happen by the end of this week, and they are now giving a clearer idea of what those new recommendations will look like.
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