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Why you won't see a mask mandate at UT Austin this school year

Under Gov. Greg Abbott's newest executive order, government entities cannot require or mandate masks.
Credit: KVUE's John Gusky
(Photo credit: KVUE's John Gusky)

AUSTIN, Texas — Masks can't be mandated on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus when the 2021-22 academic year begins. Even if the university wanted to, a series of executive orders from Gov. Greg Abbott don't allow UT to require masks.

Abbott signed a new executive order Thursday, ordering that government entities, including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities or government officials, cannot require anyone to wear a mask or mandate another person wear a mask. 

Any state or local agency and public or private entities that receive or will receive public funds from the state also cannot require proof of vaccination, according to the executive order.

This comes after Abbott signed a similar executive order in May prohibiting government entities from mandating masks. In the newest order, Abbott said "to further ensure that no governmental entity can mandate masks, the following requirements shall continue to apply."

UT Austin is a government entity because it is a public university that receives part of its income directly from the state. It also receives money from the Permanent University Fund, money in the Texas Constitution set aside for the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems.

UT’s Fall 2021 Planning Update on June 15 said masks are optional inside and outside.

“For individuals who are not fully vaccinated or who have weakened immune systems, masking is recommended but optional inside university buildings, consistent with the governor’s executive order and guidance from the CDC,” the update said.

In that update, the university highly encouraged individuals to consider getting the vaccine if they hadn't already. However, doing so is not required. 

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