Statewide COVID disaster declaration to end

It’s nothing to celebrate.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday he will not renew Texas’ long-running COVID-19 disaster declaration later this week after he signed a law that bans local mandates related to the pandemic.

Abbott has kept the disaster declaration in place since the early days of the pandemic in 2020, despite some pushback in his own party. He has maintained that he needed the declaration to support his executive orders prohibiting local COVID restrictions, and he had promised to lift the declaration once lawmakers codified those orders.

Earlier this month, Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 29, which prohibits local governments from requiring masks, vaccines or business shutdowns in response to COVID-19. The law goes into effect Sept. 1.

“I was seeking legislation this session that would override those local jurisdictions before I took down my disaster declaration,” Abbott said at an unrelated news conference Monday in Austin. “They passed that legislation and, as a result, when the disaster declaration comes up for renewal later on this month, I will not renew it.”

Abbott had made banning local COVID mandates an emergency item for the regular legislative session that wrapped up late last month. While SB 29 made it to Abbott’s desk, some Republicans say it does not go far enough because it does not extend to private entities. Legislation to do that died in the House during the regular session.

Abbott still has an executive order in place that outlaws COVID-19 vaccine requirements by any entity, including private businesses.

We are well past a thousand days of this declaration. In the end – hell, in the middle and for most of the beginning – it was about enhancing Greg Abbott’s power and stopping local governments from taking any action that might mitigate the spread of the pandemic. Now that Republicans have enshrined that into law, they’re ready to declare victory. The next unstoppable virus sure is going to love Texas. Best be ready for it, because you’ll be entirely on your own.

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