New Abbott order looks to provide clarity on Texas COVID-19 response

Gov. Greg Abbott has issued another executive order Thursday seeking to clarify the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

GA-38 combines several of Abbott's existing COVID-19 executive orders into one with the goal of providing "clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State's continued fight against COVID-19."

"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," said Gov. Abbott in a statement. "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 order addresses the following about hospitalizations, testing, vaccinations, masks and occupancy and operational limits for businesses:

  • All licensed and Texas state-run hospitals, except for psychiatric hospitals, have to submit daily reports of bed capacity to DSHS to be shared with the CDC
  • Every public or private entity using FDA-approved COVID-19 tests, including emergency use authorization tests, must submit daily reports of all positive and negative tests to DSHS and the local health department to be shared with the CDC
  • No government entity can compel anyone to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization
  • State agencies and political subdivisions can't require anyone to provide documentation on their COVID-19 vaccination status as a condition of receiving service or entering a place
  • Any public or private entity receiving public funds can not require consumers to provide documentation on their COVID-19 vaccination status as a condition of receiving service or entering a place
  • No consumer can be denied entry to facilities financed in whole or in part by public funds for not providing documentation on their COVID-19 vaccination status
  • No COVID-19 operating limits for any business or establishment
  • Individuals are encouraged to follow safe practices, such as masks and social distancing, in areas of high COVID-19 transmission, but no jurisdiction can mandate wearing masks
  • Public schools can operate under the minimum standard health protocols in guidance from the TEA and private schools and colleges and universities are encouraged to do the same
  • County and municipal jails should follow guidance from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards regarding visitation

The order also addressed what local government entities and officials can do as well:

  • Local government cannot impose any conflicting or inconsistent limitation of business activities or legal proceedings, or face a fine of up to $1,000
  • No governmental official or entity can require wearing masks, except for hospitals, state-sponsored living centers, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and any county and municipal jails enacting appropriate policies
  • Jail time is not allowed as a penalty for violating the executive order and any local orders allowing for jail time as a penalty for violating a COVID-19-related order is superseded by Abbott's executive order

The executive order does also state that nursing homes, state-sponsored living centers, assisted-living facilities, and longterm care facilities can require documentation of a resident's COVID-19 vaccination status. Those facilities are also asked to follow guidance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission on visitations and to follow infection control policies and practices.

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