On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki attributed Abbott’s decision to “politics.”
“I think it’s pretty clear when you make a choice that’s against all public health information and data out there that it’s not based on what is in the interests of the people you are governing,” she told reporters. “It’s perhaps in the interests of your own politics.”
“If indeed the mandate now is everyone must be vaccinated or . . . tested once a week, we will obviously comply by that mandate,” Doug Parker, chief executive of Fort Worth-based American Airlines, said in a Washington Post Live interview in September.
“All along, as we’ve been going through this, we have been considering mandates and may have done one on our own. But what we wanted to do was do everything we could first to encourage everyone to do so,” he said.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines last week gave all employees until Dec. 8 to get vaccinated or face possible termination. (Many U.S. airlines also are government contractors, which must meet a Dec. 8 federal deadline for coronavirus vaccinations.) Telecom giant AT&T, also based in Dallas, in August ordered most of its management employees to get vaccinated by this week. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, headquartered in Houston, announced a similar move the same month.
Violators will face a fine up to $1,000, according to the order, which will remain in effect until the Republican-dominated Texas legislature passes a law that formalizes it, Abbott said. The ban covers any person who objects to vaccination “for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.”
But Abbott, who is fully vaccinated, still urged those eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine to do so.
In July, Abbott restricted local governments and state entities from levying vaccine mandates. In March, he repealed mask mandates, an order that has since been overridden by some courts in the state.
Abbott is also facing political challenges from within his party, whose most vocal members have railed against vaccine and mask mandates.
Don Huffines, a former Texas state senator who is challenging Abbott for the GOP candidacy in next year’s gubernatorial race, tweeted that Abbott’s move had been long overdue.
“Greg Abbott is a political windsock and today proves it,” he said. “He knows conservative Republican voters are tired of the vaccine mandates and tired of him being a failed leader.”
About 15 million Texans have been fully vaccinated, or just over half of the nation’s second-most populous state, according to The Washington Post coronavirus vaccination tracker. The United States as a whole has vaccinated about 56 percent of its residents.
Texas’s deaths and new daily infections have been gradually falling in recent weeks, after the state suffered increases in both tallies this summer amid the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.