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What ‘clarity and uniformity’ mean for Gov. Abbott’s new COVID-19 executive order

Gov. Greg Abbott combined several existing COVID-19 orders old June 29. This is a comparison of old versus new.

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott said July 29’s executive order will “provide clarity and uniformity” for COVID-19 regulation.

This new order has five points.

1. Reporting requirements for testing and hospital bed capacity

It is the same order as GA-10, issued March 24, 2020.

Hospitals are required to report daily bed capacity.

All public and private companies must use an FDA-approved COVID-19 test.

2. Vaccine passports

GA-35, issued April 25, 2021, shows “vaccine passports” in the recital of the executive order.  

The new order, GA-38, adds “vaccine passports” to the content of the order, citing law enacted this year.

As with GA-35, the GA-38 shows state agencies cannot require an individual to show proof of vaccination.

Also, any public/private company receiving public money cannot require a consumer to show proof of vaccination.

3. Operating limits

On March 2, 2021, Gov. Abbott issued GA-34. It opened Texas to 100% operating capacity and removed any previous mask mandate.  

However, under GA-34, “areas of high hospitalizations” as defined by the order gave the county judge authority to enforce “mitigation strategies.”

Those strategies could include limiting some business capacity as well as instituting a face-mask policy. 

The July 29 executive order shows where the “transmission rate is high, individuals are encouraged to follow the safe practices they have already mastered.”

All capacity and mask mandates are removed, regardless of area hospitalization rates. However, a few exceptions include guidance for facilities such as nursing homes, long-term health care centers, public schools and jail visitation didn’t change.

Elderly care facilities should still follow guidance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).

“Public schools may operate as provided by, and under the minimum standard health protocols found in, guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency,” GA-38 shows.

City and county jails should follow the Texas Commission on Jail Standards guidance regarding visitations, the July 29 order shows.

Violations may result in a fine of up to $1,000.

4. Mask mandates

Under GA-36, issued May 18, 2021, school districts could require masks until June 4.

GA-38 shows school districts are not allowed to mandate face coverings.

“No governmental entity, including a county, city, school district, and public health authority, and no governmental official may require any person to wear a face covering or to mandate that another person wear a face covering,” the order shows.

However, GA-38 shows, “state supported living centers, government-owned hospitals, and government-operated hospitals may continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings.”

“The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and any county and municipal jails acting consistent with guidance by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards may continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings,” GA-38 shows.

With the lifted restrictions, the order adds, “Even though face coverings cannot be mandated by any governmental entity, that does not prevent individuals from wearing one if they choose.”

Violations may result in a fine of up to $1,000.

5. This order supersedes any conflicting local orders.

Also, the order shows no jail time is a penalty for any violations.  

The order will be in place until it’s changed or ended by the governor.

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