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30 Jul, 2021 07:53

Governor Abbott threatens to fine local govts that order Texans to mask up as CDC U-turn triggers wave of new mandates

Governor Abbott threatens to fine local govts that order Texans to mask up as CDC U-turn triggers wave of new mandates

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has reminded state authorities that they are forbidden to force residents to wear a mask, after the CDC introduced new face coverings guidance in a bid to stop the spread of the Delta variant.

Aiming to provide “clarity and uniformity in the state’s Covid-19 response,” Abbott issued an executive order on Thursday, reiterating that local governments, public school districts, health authorities, and all other government entities were banned from issuing mask mandates. Anyone who tried to force Texans to mask up could be fined up to $1,000. The order does not apply to government-operated hospitals or detention facilities. It says state residents can voluntarily wear face coverings if they choose to do so. 

In a statement explaining the order, Abbott stressed that “the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates.” 

The governor said Texans understood the precautions that needed to be taken to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 and were endowed with the “individual right and responsibility” to decide for themselves whether they should mask up. He noted that the same held true for the choice to keep a business open or engage in routine activities. 

As for other preventative measures that could be taken against Covid-19, Texas had an “abundant supply” of vaccines for those who wanted to avail themselves of them, Abbott said. He described the shot as “the most defensive defense against the virus,” while underscoring the point that vaccination would always remain voluntary in the state. Around 61% of Texans have received at least one dose thus far. 

The executive order consolidates several preceding decrees concerning the state’s response to Covid-19. Abbott issued an order in May that prevented state authorities from mandating mask-wearing from June 4. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance earlier this week that called for mask use among the fully vaccinated in areas with “high transmission” of Covid-19, in response to the spread of the more infectious Delta strain. The agency also said that masks should be worn by all staff and pupils at K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, revising its recommendation on classroom mask-wearing of early July. 

Covid-19 hospitalizations have skyrocketed in Texas in the past month, although the number of occupied beds is still nowhere near the peak level seen in January. Covid-linked deaths, meanwhile, are at near-record lows.

Also on rt.com Biden orders mandatory Covid vaccines or tests for all federal employees, plus masks for workers and visitors

While countries across the world have raised the alarm over the spread of the Delta variant, there is still no conclusive evidence that it is more deadly than other Covid strains. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, noted last month that it would be wrong to assume Delta was unusually lethal. 

“We need more information to determine: is it really the variant itself or is it a combination of factors?” Van Kerkhove said. A week prior, she had said that “we don’t have an indication of increase in mortality from the Delta variant.”

In the meantime, the Biden administration has ramped up efforts to get citizens vaccinated, arguing that the shot is the best method by which to combat the variant, which was identified in India in December 2020, with an earlier version recorded in October of the same year. 

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