Abbott’s latest vaccine order shows focus on strengthening the GOP base, not defeating COVID

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When Texas Governor Greg Abbott in August banned any “government entity” – namely school districts and local governments – from issuing vaccination warrants, he faced backlash from anti -vaccines that felt he had not gone far enough.

But his office was clear at the time that the government should not interfere with the rights of Texans, in this context at least.

“Private companies don’t need government to run their business,” said spokesperson Renae Eze.

It was in August. It is now October and Abbott apparently believes private companies will welcome the government’s heavy hand. Abbott issued a new executive order on Monday to ban “any entity” in Texas from requiring its employees, or customers, to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He also called on lawmakers to pass similar legislation in this year’s third special session, which began on September 20 and ends next week.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” he said in a statement, announcing the new policy.

So there you have it: Abbott’s plan to eliminate COVID-19 as a public health threat is to expand the list of places where life-saving vaccines cannot be required, even though the death toll in the state exceeds 68,000. A hell of a job, Governor.

But let’s face it, Abbott threw in the towel some time ago by eradicating COVID-19. Today, his priority seems to be to face President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Biden issued an executive order last month that said employers with 100 or more employees institute vaccination warrants or regular testing requirements. Many large employers have gone with the former in order to avoid the administrative overhead that would necessarily accompany a weekly testing program.

Abbott therefore argues that Biden issued a de facto vaccine warrant for large private employers, even though he did not.

“The Biden administration is now intimidating many private entities into imposing COVID-19 vaccination warrants, causing workforce disruptions that threaten Texas’ continued recovery from COVID-19 disaster He argues, in the decree itself.

But one would have to be naïve to believe that Biden’s order led to Abbott’s latest swing.

The President’s Order was released over a month ago – September 9 to be exact. The governor could then have issued this decree. And if he wanted lawmakers to act, he could have added it to the call at the start of the third special session rather than in its final days.

Additionally, if Abbott’s change was inspired by economic realities, he should explain why he focuses on Biden’s Executive Order, which affects all states, not just Texas. The state’s unemployment rate stood at 5.9% in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s significantly higher than the national rate of 5.2% that month, the most recent for which data is available.

No, it’s pretty clear that Abbott is more focused on winning a GOP primary next year than doing whatever it takes to defeat COVID-19.

As he runs for a third term amid declining job approval rates, Abbott has decided the best course of action is to rush to avoid two very conservative challengers, former Florida congressman Allen West and former State Senator Don Huffines.

West, who is not himself vaccinated, recently spent a few days in hospital receiving monoclonal antibodies after contracting COVID-19. West faced the experiment by promising to fight even harder against vaccination mandates (and the vaccines themselves, which he described as “a dangerous shot”).

“As governor of Texas, I will vehemently crush anyone who forces vaccination warrants in Lone Star State,” West tweeted on Sunday, hours before Abbott’s about-face.

Huffins, for his part, claimed credit for Abbott’s turnaround.

“I am very happy to see that our campaign has forced Greg Abbott to reconsider his position on this important issue,” Huffines said in a statement.

The good news is that employers are likely to ignore Abbott’s new order, just as many school districts have ignored his previous order banning mask mandates. Many cite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends “universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of immunization status.”

In addition, employers may not have a choice: an executive order does not replace that of an American president.

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC on Tuesday that he had “never been in favor of corporations imposing this type of mandate,” but added that Southwest will nonetheless continue in his mandate. announced last week in response to the federal directive.

Of course, Abbott’s order is also a mandate – a mandate that seeks to usurp the authority of men and women who want to make their own decisions about how to run their business.

It seems Abbott is opposed to the government telling people what to do, unless he is giving the orders.

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