On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that prohibits both public and private entities in the state from requiring workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — an order that could be undone with the finalization of a Biden administration mandate on vaccines for workers at companies with more than 100 employees.
Abbott’s order would also ban private establishments from requiring patrons to show proof of vaccination at the door.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said in a statement regarding the order.
The edict from the governor, who himself was diagnosed with coronavirus in August, states that: “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.” The order also imposes a $1,000 fine for entities that implement a vaccine mandate.
Recent months have seen an alarming wave of new coronavirus infections in the U.S., with Texas experiencing a disproportionate number of cases. Though infection rates are now decreasing in many places across the country, experts warn there could be another surge in the winter. Currently, Texas is seeing an average of more than 7,000 new cases a day, and ranks ninth in the nation in terms of how many residents are dying from the virus per capita.
In September, President Joe Biden announced that the Department of Labor, through federally-enforced OSHA laws, would create a new rule requiring workers at businesses with more than 100 employees to either get vaccinated against COVID or submit weekly negative tests to prove that they haven’t contracted the virus.
“If we can come together as a country and use those tools, if we raise our vaccination rate, protect ourselves and others with masking, expanded testing, and identify people who are infected, we can and we will turn the tide on COVID-19,” Biden said in his announcement of the rule.
If Biden’s proposal is fully implemented and enforced, it’s estimated that at least 82 percent of the U.S. population will have received at least one vaccine dose by the middle of next year.
Though OSHA’s rulemaking process has delayed the implementation of the proposal, the president has urged companies that would be affected by the rule to begin imposing vaccination mandates now, which several companies have done.
Biden’s vaccine and testing mandate would undoubtedly supersede Abbott’s executive order. The U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause states that all “laws of the United States … shall be the supreme law of the land” — meaning that rules created and enforced by the federal government override ones imposed by individual states.