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Austin mayor says businesses can require negative COVID-19 test to get around governor's order

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that bans Texas entities from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination of anyone, including employees or customers.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has issued an executive order banning any entity in Texas from having COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Leaders in the Austin area are wondering what tools businesses have in limiting the spread of the coronavirus among their employees and customers.

On Oct. 11, Abbott issued an executive order that bans Texas entities from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination of anyone, including employees or customers.

At a COVID-19 briefing the day after the executive order was issued, Austin Mayor Steve Adler reacted to the order.

"I'm still really confused by the governor's order, GA-40, that gives directions to private businesses about what they can do in their establishments," Adler said. "I mean, it just seems to me to be really anti-business and a real limitation of the freedoms and liberties for someone to say in my own private business, just like I require people to wear shoes, to say to businesses that you can't do that to protect their employees or their customers and then let customers and employees decide if that's a place they want to work. And I just don't understand it. And it just seems to be really inconsistent with so much as I've heard in the past and the principles espoused by the governor and the leadership."

With that being said, the mayor said that businesses can still mandate a negative COVID-19 test, with the option to provide proof of vaccination.

"But I would still point out, as I read that, it still allows for testing mandates, doesn't put a limitation on the ability to be able to do testing mandates or to let people then opt-out of a testing requirement because they have a vaccine. That doesn't require anyone to get a vaccine," Adler said. "But if someone has voluntarily chosen to get a vaccine, it enables them to opt-out of a testing mandate, a requirement kind of like where we saw that [at] ACL this past couple of weekends. And my hope is, is that more employers and private businesses and activities will adopt that testing mandate with that entirely optional vaccination opt-out provision."

City Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes asked the group of leaders what health leaders can do to ensure businesses' employees are still getting vaccinated.

When it comes to the business community, Interim Director of APH Adrienne Stirrup said the City of Austin has set a good example. Austin has set up incentives for employees in order to get them vaccinated. Stirrup said Austin Public Health plans to get with the Communications and Public Information Office to work on a communication and engagement strategy.

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