After rising hospitalization rates raised concerns that counties could once again place capacity restrictions on businesses, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new executive order stating that no capacity restrictions could be placed on businesses in Texas.
The new executive order—which Abbott says is designed to “provide clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State’s continued fight against COVID-19″—consolidates several previous executive orders, such as a ban on mask mandates as well as restating a narrow ban on vaccine requirements by governmental agencies and entities receiving public funds from governmental agencies. (The complete order can be found at the end of this article.)
Most notably, however, is the lifting of a previous stipulation that allowed counties with high hospitalization rates to bring back COVID-19 restrictions.
According to his previous executive order issued on March 2, 2021, if the hospitalization rate in any of the state’s 22 Trauma Service Areas was more than 15 percent for more than seven days, the restrictions could come back into place. Abbott’s previous order allowed county judges in “areas with high hospitalizations” to wind back occupancy limits in businesses to as low as 50 percent.
In the past several weeks, those hospitalization rates have started to creep up. Now, five of the state’s 22 Trauma Service Areas have rates above 10 percent.
As the rates ticked up, concern grew that such a move would defer the power into the hands of county judges, many of whom have shown a willingness to place restrictive mandates on citizens during the past year.
Abbott’s newest order should place those concerns at rest for the time being.
Thursday’s executive order is the latest in a long string of changing mandates and rules related to COVID-19 that Abbott has issued since March of last year. Though more than 16 months have passed since Abbott’s original disaster declaration, the state Legislature met but failed to pass reforms on executive powers.