GALVESTON

Cruise lines operating from the Port of Galveston appear poised to continue with strict vaccine requirements, despite a new executive order banning private entities in Texas from requiring employees and consumers to be inoculated against COVID-19.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued an executive order prohibiting any “entity” in Texas from compelling anybody to be vaccinated, including an employee or consumer.

The executive order came about a month after President Joe Biden announced a plan to broadly require either vaccination or frequent testing of about 100 million U.S. workers.

Biden ordered the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make rules mandating all employers of more than 100 people require workers to either be inoculated or be tested for COVID weekly.

A CHANGE OF STANCE

Abbott previously had supported allowing businesses to create their own vaccination rules. The governor recently had been taking criticism over that stance from Republican primary challengers, including former state Sen. Don Huffines, however.

In Galveston, Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises have required nearly all of their employees and most of their customers to be vaccinated since they returned to business in early July. Disney Cruise Line is planning to return to Galveston on Nov. 19 and similarly is telling passengers they will be required to be vaccinated.

None of the companies responded to a request for comment Tuesday.

The Port of Galveston, however, said it had no reason to think the new executive order applied to the cruise lines.

“We have no information indicating any intent to change current cruise operations, which the governor’s office approved prior to the restart of passenger cruise operations in July,” said Tony Brown, the port’s attorney. “Cruise operations are continuing to grow back as a major economic driver for our community, our region and our state.”

There had been no communications between the governor’s office and the port as of Tuesday afternoon, Brown said.

‘NO ENTITY’

An Abbott spokeswoman in a statement responded to questions about whether the new mandate applied to cruise ships by pointing to the first part of the executive order — “no entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual.”

Abbott’s aim was to protect people from losing their jobs to federal overreach.

“The Biden Administration has left Texans in the impossible position of having to choose between providing for their families or being fired for not getting the COVID vaccine because of their religious belief, medical condition or personal conscience,” Renae Eze, press secretary for Abbott, said.

“They have left employers with the unfair choice of either violating federal regulations or losing their valued employees. The governor’s executive order will help protect Texans from having to make that choice.”

Abbott threatens $1,000 fines for violations of the executive order. He also asked the legislators to pass a law banning mandates among private businesses.

Huffines, who is running in next year’s Republican primary as a more conservative alternative to Abbott, said a law should have been proposed earlier this year.

“If I were governor, we would have already banned vaccine mandates in the regular session,” Huffines said. “Any businesses, including cruise lines, who attempted to defy the law would be prosecuted accordingly. I will always be a vigilant defender of Texans’ liberties.”

HISTORY OF EXCEPTIONS

Abbott and lawmakers previously had carved out exceptions to COVID orders and laws that applied to cruise lines and other businesses.

Abbott in April issued an order stating government entities were banned from requiring vaccine passports but said that didn’t apply to the cruise lines operating out of the public port.

In June, he signed a stricter law prohibiting private businesses from requiring vaccine passports. But the law included exceptions for companies that required vaccine passports because of federal mandate.

At the time, cruise companies were required to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-issued mandates, including a vaccine requirement. In July, however, a federal judge in Florida issued an injunction against the CDC, stopping it from enforcing its rules.

The judge’s ruling was part of a lawsuit filed by the state of Florida against the CDC. Texas joined that lawsuit in May, making the argument the agency’s rules were harmful to the Texas economy.

Since July, the CDC has said its rules are considered voluntary and non-binding. Still, the companies have continued to mandate vaccines from most of their customers. Last week, Carnival announced it would extend its vaccine requirements into at least February 2022.

THE CONSEQUENCES

It’s unclear whether Abbott, his opponents or others will take much notice of or have much concern about flouting of the new mandate.

Businesses generally seem to like some definite direction from the government about what its rules should be regarding vaccines, said Steve Werner, the chairman of the department of management and leadership at the University of Houston’s Bauer College. Having an anti-mandate mandate at least gives human resources departments cover for making their own decisions, he said.

For cruise companies, there might be a greater incentive to keep the vaccine mandate, especially if the companies feel their businesses are put at greater risk if an outbreak occurs on a ship. The benefit of requiring vaccinations might, for now, outweigh any punishment the state creates, Werner said.

“Everybody knows this is all in flux,” Werner said. “It’s really not clear what the legalities are. With every new law that’s passed there are lawsuits, and then it goes through the system. Until the Supreme Court rules on something, it’s never a done deal.

“I think the bottom line is that organizations will say, ‘If we want to, we’ll follow’, but I don’t think they’re entirely fearful that there’s going to be great consequences right away.”

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter

@johnwferguson.

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(24) comments

Carlos Ponce

Remember: Marilyn Tackett was screened before boarding Carnival Vista in Galveston..... May she rest in peace.

Gary Scoggin

The plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”

Bailey Jones

[lol]

Carlos Ponce

1 passenger, 26 crew , Gary.

Jim Forsythe

77-year-old Carnival Vista passenger Marilyn Tackett of Oklahoma, boarded the cruise ship on July 31.

After becoming ill on August 4, her Covid19 test came back positive. She is one of the few, in the USA that have died from Covid19, after being vaccinated. The reason why it is important to be vaccinated, is illustrated in the following.

26 crew members and one passenger aboard the same ship tested positive for COVID-19. All 27 were vaccinated, had mild or no symptoms, and were in isolation. 99.98% of the ship's crew was vaccinated, as well as 96.5% of its passengers.

On August 22, the cruise line announced that beginning August 28, it will require vaccination proof for all passengers 12 and over.

Beginning Sept. 3, the Bahamas is restricting cruise ships from entering the country's ports unless all passengers over 12 have been vaccinated. This is the same rule, in most ports.

Unless one's idea of having fun on a cruise ship is not going on shore at different ports, the cruise ships will have to require passengers, to be vaccinated, otherwise it will be just boating.

Carlos Ponce

"All 27 were vaccinated, had mild or no symptoms," death IS NOT MILD, Jiim.

Jim Forsythe

26 crew members and one passenger had mild or no symptoms, plus one more that died, Marilyn Tackett .

Marilyn Tackett passed away, and the other 27 had mild or no symptoms.

The Covid19 vaccine is not 100%, that is why it is important to be vaccinated. If you are vaccinated and someone is around you

with a active case of Covid19, your chances are much belter, then someone in the same area, that is not vaccinated.

Also, if a person is going on a cruise ship, make sure you health insurance covers you, as Marilyn Tackett family had to come up with $5,000 before she could be treated. Mine will cover me, if I activate it for coverage outside the USA.

The ship’s doctor said she had to be placed on a ventilator and made arrangements for her to be transferred to a private hospital in Belize that demanded a payment of $5,000 before she could be admitted. Tackett’s insurance did not cover the fee, so her granddaughter raised money through GoFundMe to get her into intensive care.

Carlos Ponce

Poor Jim, trying to make it look like the only way to have a mild case is to be vaccinated. He forgets the high percentage of those who were asymptomatic or had a mild case BEFORE vaccines were available.

Walter Dannenmaier

How many are needed to exceed a "few", Jim?

Jim Forsythe

As of Sept. 20,2021, 4,493 fully vaccinated Americans died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Non-vaccinated Americans that have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, 716,152.

You can think what you want, but a persons chances of death from COVID-19 is much greater if they are not vaccinated.

The number that have died from COVID-19 and are fully vaccinated, is about the same number that die each year from the use of Aspirin.

Carlos Ponce

If the vaccine was available at the beginning of the pandemic, your observation would be valid. At best it is very misleading.

Bailey Jones

Jim, if we're talking about how effective the vaccines are, let me just rearrange your numbers a bit. Today's number for breakthrough deaths is 6617. Since Sept 20th, when it was 4493 deaths, that's an average of about 90 breakthrough deaths a day. Compare that to about 2000 deaths per day among the unvaccinated over the same period. So you're 22 times more likely to die if you are unvaccinated. (And we have more vaccinated people than unvaccinated, so it's even worse than that - if you adjust for populations it's about 30 times more likely.) Most people will be able to draw the obvious conclusion. (But only most.)

Add to that the fact that, among vaccinated Americans, only 14% of the deaths are people under 65. Among the unvaccinated, 40% of the deaths are people younger than 65.

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/health-departments/breakthrough-cases.html

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid_weekly/index.htm#SexAndAge

Charlotte O'rourke

“Biden ordered the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make rules mandating all employers of more than 100 people require workers to either be inoculated or be tested for COVID weekly.”

This says “all employers” with over 100 employees.

Does that mean public and private employers or just private employers? Does it include contractual, temporary and independent contractors?

Charlotte O'rourke

Sorry for the double post.

Anyone know the answer to the question about new vaccination rules without a lot of research? I know OSHA does not NORMALLY apply to public entities, but will the new vaccination rule apply to contract type workers working via a contract or temp agency for public entities? Numbers based on a location?

Charlotte O'rourke

“Biden ordered the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make rules mandating all employers of more than 100 people require workers to either be inoculated or be tested for COVID weekly.” This says “all employers” with over 100 employees. Does that mean public and private employers or just private employers? Does it include contractual, temporary and independent contractors?

Gary Scoggin

If this follows most rule making procedures, we will have to wait for OSHA to release the proposed rule to know the details. Then it will go to public comment for 30 days or more. And there will be literally millions of comments. Then OSHA will issue a final rule. It’s a months long process, and this wave will have probably passed by then.

But Biden will have already taken credit and been assigned blame which was the point of this to begin with.

Charlotte O'rourke

Thanks Gary. One thing you can count on ..... someone will be blamed, and half the population angry and vitriolic.

The port is having a budget meeting today, but the port doesn’t post the draft version of its budget online so it’s difficult to follow their meetings.

The port budgeted over 100 employees last year, but I don’t think OSHA rules would apply to the public employees even if 100 employees are budgeted this year. The port also hires a lot of contractors through private companies so I was wondering where the responsibility would lie to ensure vaccine compliance as mingling occurs in common areas. I thought the rules were further along, but it’s sure to be a cumbersome process especially with monitoring and compliance.

Walter Dannenmaier

Oh Charlotte, SO many choices of who to blame for Covid, the useless measures that killed the economy while not stopping the pandemic, the rushed vaccines with unproven efficacy and safety, the widespread Covid Psychosis. And many among us were angry and vitriolic even BEFORE the pandemic. ))))

Charlotte O'rourke

Walter, one must look at the successes and failures to see what was done right and wrong during a crisis. It’s never wrong to try and save lives, basically, to put human lives before money.

Where you think the US was wrong to shut down because it hurt the economy, the U.K. says it was wrong to initially delay, “group think” and by failing to shut down. But the U.K. had a great vaccination strategy and a high vaccination rate as notable successes.

So, angry? Angry doesn’t help save lives. Anger impedes rational thinking and blaming others for mistakes or the economy is nonproductive. Might as well blame the Easter Bunny.

The US is failing when its leaders can’t convince the public that Prevention through vaccination is better than treatment after infection and it costs a whole lot less. If for religious reasons (e.g. mark of the beast,) one doesn’t want the vaccine be willing to step up and comply with testing. But the biggest flaw in some leaders is getting the vaccine themselves and for family but not encouraging vaccinyand even restricting vaccinations through laws and executive orders.

The supply chain has been disrupted, prices are going up, workers are striking because of the disparities in pay between CEOs and front line workers and due to increased health risks.

The US government at all levels needs to find solutions and common ground. Words and actions matter.

Charlotte O'rourke

I don’t think the below statement from the GDN article is accurate. The CDC CSO order is only voluntary in Florida and not to port’s in other states.

“Since July, the CDC has said its rules are considered voluntary and non-binding. Still, the companies have continued to mandate vaccines from most of their customers. Last week, Carnival announced it would extend its vaccine requirements into at least February 2022.”

Clipped from CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/cruise-ship-color-status.html

“With the exception of cruise ships operating in Florida, all cruise ships operating in U.S. waters, or seeking to operate in U.S. waters, must comply with the requirements of the CDC Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) and Technical Instructions, even when outside of U.S. waters.

Note: As of July 23, 2021, the CSO and accompanying measures, such as technical instructions, are currently nonbinding recommendations for cruise ships arriving in, located within, or departing from a port in Florida. However, CDC will continue to operate the CSO as a voluntary program for such ships should they choose to follow the CSO measures on a voluntary basis.”

Charlotte O'rourke

My understanding is that the CSO order for ports is set to expire November 1, 2021. Florida is the only state where the CSO order is currently voluntary.

What are the impacts - if any - on Galveston’s port if there is no CSO extension and the governor continues with his no mandatory vaccination requirement?

What a mess .... especially when the cruise industry has started to recover!

Charlotte O'rourke

https://www.cruisehive.com/the-cdc-conditional-sailing-order-to-be-extended-or-not/57952

Article on whether the CSO order will be allowed to expire at the end of this month.

Jim Forsythe

Even if the cruise ships are allowed to leave with no one vaccinated, most ports in other countries are not allowing cruise ships to dock, unless the people aboard are vaccinated.

What the point of a cruise, if one can not go to other ports and leave the ship for a day of fun?

Charlotte O'rourke

I agree with you Jim. So I’m hoping that the port, Galveston leaders, and cruise industry are discussing this issue with the governor and state officials so as to continue SAFE cruising out of Galveston.

Since the cruise industry found it safer to require vaccinations than the other option of trial runs provided by the CSO Order, and port of calls require vaccinations, lets hope the state doesn’t put up impossible road blocks or there is federal cover in November that allows cruise lines to require vaccinations as long as it’s needed.

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