(CN) — Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday barring all private businesses from mandating coronavirus vaccines for employees and customers and called on the state Legislature to make the ban permanent.
Abbott’s order, one of more than 30 he has issued related to the coronavirus since March 2020, applies to more than just businesses.
“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,” the order states.
The move marks an about-face for Abbott.
In another executive order in August, he barred state agencies, cities, counties and school districts from requiring Covid-19 vaccines but said he would not impede in the affairs of private businesses should they decide to mandate them.
Abbott’s latest order references President Joe Biden’s Covid Action Plan, which requires businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated, or force all those who are unvaccinated to get tested for the virus on a weekly basis.
“In yet another instance of federal overreach, the Biden Administration is now bullying many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, causing workforce disruptions that threaten Texas’ s continued recovery from the COVID-19 disaster,” the decree states.
"Workforce disruptions” is an apparent reference to speculation from Texas politicians, including U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, that Dallas-based Southwest Airlines’ directive, announced last week, for its employees to get fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 9, is to blame for a staff mutiny that caused the airline to cancel thousands of flights over the holiday weekend.
Casey Murray, president of Southwest Airlines’ pilots’ union, said those claims are false.
“I can say with certainty that there are no work slowdowns or sickouts either related to the recent mandatory vaccine mandate or otherwise,” he said in a statement Sunday.
But political analysts noted that Abbott’s order came shortly after former state Senator Don Huffines, a critic of Southwest’s vaccinate mandate, stated on social media that if he were governor he would ban all vaccine mandates.
Huffines is running against Abbott in the 2022 Republican primary, trying to unseat Abbott as he seeks a third term in the governor’s mansion.
Abbott himself is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and has encouraged Texans to get the shots.
But he was harshly criticized by his fellow Republicans for decrees issued early in the pandemic ordering non-essential businesses to close and Texans to wear masks if they could not socially distance.
This year he has taken the opposite tack, barring local governments and school districts from requiring masks and even taking them to court for defying him.
More than 67,000 Texans have died from Covid-19, 60% of residents have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine and 52% are fully vaccinated, according to the New York Times.
Abbott on Monday also called on the state Legislature to pass a no-vaccine-mandate bill to replace his executive order.
But with just a week left in the Legislature’s third special session, pundits say it’s unlikely Republicans, who hold a majority in both chambers, can push a bill through that quickly.
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