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Texas governor orders ban on private company vaccine mandate

Texas governor Greg Abbott has issued an executive order to prohibit any entity, including private business, from enforcing a Covid-19 vaccine mandate on workers and called on state legislators to pass a similar ban into law.

The move comes with the Biden administration set to issue rules requiring employers with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or test weekly for the coronavirus.

Several major companies, including Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, have said they would abide by the federal mandate.

“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a Covid-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from Covid-19,” Mr Abbott wrote in his order.

Mr Abbott, who was previously vaccinated and also later tested positive for Covid-19, noted in his order that “vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans”.

Montana has passed a law preventing employers from mandating workers receive vaccines, and a number of states have explicitly said schools cannot require vaccinations.

Mr Abbott previously barred vaccine mandates by state and local government agencies, but until now had let private companies make their own rules for their workers.

Meanwhile, California’s coronavirus death toll reached another milestone of 70,000 on Monday as it emerges from the latest infection surge with the lowest rate of new cases among all states.

Last year at this time, cases in the state started increasing. By January, California was in the throes of the worst spike of the pandemic and was the nation’s epicentre for the virus. Daily deaths approached 700.

The latest surge started in summer and was driven by the delta variant that primarily targeted the unvaccinated. At its worst during this spike, California’s average daily death count was in the low 100s.

Data collected by Johns Hopkins University showed the state with 70,132 deaths by midday on Monday. It is the highest of any state, exceeding Texas by some 3,000 and Florida by 13,000,

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