“Sometimes it’s better for governments to step out of the way and let businesses make their own decisions,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in announcing the new order. “These orders will help keep businesses open, employees healthy and working, and Austin on the path of economic recovery.”
To comply, businesses must post a checklist of their employee policies including mask-wearing, daily testing, or disclosure of vaccination status.
If in violation, the order stipulates the city could fine the offending business up to $1,000.
Adler cited an appeals court decision from last week that ruled Harris County’s mask mandate was permissible and that the governor could not preempt the local officials’ mask order.
Governor Greg Abbott banned local mandates through an executive order back in August, but a medley of court decisions since have set a checkered guideline between acceptable and unacceptable orders. Abbott, however, has maintained that his order applies across the board.
“This municipal order is preempted by Executive Orders GA-38, GA-39, and GA-40 — all of which remain in full effect,” Abbott spokeswoman Nan Tolson told CBS Austin. “Any business would be within its legal rights to ignore this municipal order. Governor Abbott has been clear that the time for mandates is over; now is the time for personal responsibility.”
Austin’s order is in response to the wave of coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant, which has so far been more contagious but less severe than previous iterations. The positivity spike has occurred across the country, for states that have implemented strict policies and those that have not, alike.
Currently, the city has 5,326 active COVID-19 cases with 10 percent of those hospitalized. However, hospitals are treating everyone in their care who tests positive for coronavirus as a COVID-19 hospitalization — regardless of whether that is why they’re in the hospital in the first place.
A broken arm could bring someone into the hospital, and a positive coronavirus test would add to the statistic.
Local orders last 30 days before they must be renewed or automatically expire.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.