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Mayor, manager at odds over requiring vaccinations

Thursday, July 29, 2021 by Jo Clifton

On Wednesday, Mayor Steve Adler urged City Manager Spencer Cronk to require all city employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, with a few exceptions. His comments came in an emailed press release.

A few hours later, a city spokesperson released the following statement by email: “The Governor’s Executive Order GA-35 prohibits the city from requiring vaccinations. However, the city manager has urged staff to get vaccinated as an essential part of helping us end this pandemic. Being fully vaccinated is proven to provide the highest level of protection against Covid-19 and Covid variants.”

Gov. Greg Abbott’s order specifically prohibits governmental entities from requiring “any individual to receive the Covid-19 vaccine administered under an emergency authorization.”

The federal Food and Drug Administration has authorized use of several Covid-19 vaccines under an emergency use authorization. It appears that once the FDA gives general approval of the vaccines, the order will no longer apply. However, the governor could simply rewrite the order.

But Adler is not backing down.

“We agree that we must protect our community and ensure we keep our hospital ICU capacity low, our unvaccinated children safe and our city open. The Governor has put us in an impossible position and we are evaluating the best avenue the city can take to keep our city and the personnel serving our community safe,” said Adler.

New York City, California and a number of California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, will require health care workers and government employees to show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly testing for the virus. President Joe Biden is expected to announce Thursday that all federal government employees must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing.

Austin/Travis County reported 490 new cases on Wednesday and 314 people hospitalized with the virus, “pushing Austin dangerously close to stage 5 pandemic recommendations,” the mayor said. “With alarming increases in cases, ICU admissions, and community positivity rates, we must do more. We must especially act to better protect our children under 12 who cannot get vaccinated and are being put at needless increased risk,” he said.

In addition to urging Cronk to require city employees to get inoculated, Adler also said he was urging Austin businesses to require that their employees be vaccinated. “We must all lead by our own example,” he said. The governor’s order does not apply to private businesses, and a federal judge in Houston has upheld an employer’s right to require their employees to be vaccinated.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been updated since publication, by removing a previous quote attributed to the mayor’s office and adding a quote from Adler himself.

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