TEXAS — As cases of COVID-19 and resultant hospitalizations continue to tick up in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has doubled down on his efforts to prevent mask and vaccination mandates. 

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Abbott Thursday issued an executive order combining previous orders concerning COVID-19

  • Order prohibits cites and other state government entities from enacting mask or vaccine mandates

  • Critics claim the order has more to do with politics than public health

  • Texas on Thursday reported more than 8,000 new cases of COVID-19

There's really nothing new in Executive Order GA-38, which was described as “combining several existing COVID-19 executive orders to promote statewide uniformity and certainty in the state's COVID-19 response.”

The order prohibits cities and other state government entities from enacting mask or vaccine mandates in order to provide protection from COVID-19.

“Today’s executive order will provide clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State’s continued fight against COVID-19,” Abbott wrote. “The new Executive Order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates. Texans have mastered the safe practices that help to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19. They have the individual right and responsibility to decide for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, and engage in leisure activities. Vaccines, which remain in abundant supply, are the most effective defense against the virus, and they will always remain voluntary – never forced – in the State of Texas.”

The order applies to government entities that receive state funds, including school districts, counties, cities and public health authorities.

Critics, including Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, say the order has more to do with politics than public health. Abbott is up for re-election next year.

“The Governor’s order is based on polling data of what Republican primary voters want to hear; conversely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations are based on the most recent data regarding the much more contagious Delta variant and what scientists and medical professionals have learned thus far to combat the spread and harm of COVID,” Jenkins wrote.

“The Governor’s order restricts school districts from requiring masks, increasing the chance another school year will be ruined for students, while also making it more difficult to stop the spread of COVID and illness for children and their families,” Jenkins continued.

Texas on Thursday reported 6,347 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 as well as 1,876 new probable cases. There were 35 additional fatalities reported. Currently, 5,662 Texans are hospitalized with the virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends everyone wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.