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Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) will not outlaw local COVID-19 mandates when he takes office in January.
While the governor-elect will be lifting some state-wide mandates when he gets into office, Youngkin clarified over the weekend that he would not stand in the way of local governments implementing their own COVID-19 restrictions.
“Localities are going to have to make decisions the way the law works and that is going to be up to individual decisions but, again, from the governor’s office, you won’t see mandates from me,” Youngkin told a local news outlet.
Governor Ralph Northam (D), who Youngkin will replace next year, has required state employees to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. He has stopped short of enacting similar measures for healthcare workers or teachers, though he supports local governments and private businesses instituting their own vaccine mandates and requirements.
Youngkin has voiced opposition to vaccine mandates at the federal level, such as President Joe Biden’s recent order mandating vaccination of federal workers and contractors, and requiring large companies to either vaccinate their employees or test them regularly for COVID-19. Biden’s mandate regarding large companies was suspended on Wednesday following an order from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals after receiving multiple lawsuits over the law.
Youngkin’s approach to COVID-19 mandates differs from that of other Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbott in Texas. DeSantis and Abbott have pushed through measures banning local governments from establishing COVID rules such as mask or vaccine mandates.
Last month, Florida fined Leon County nearly $3.6 million for violating state law against vaccine mandates. The county had fired dozens of workers for not receiving the vaccine.
“We are going to protect Florida jobs. We are not going to let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate,” DeSantis warned in September after Leon County had terminated 14 employees over their refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. “You don’t just cast aside people who’ve been serving faithfully over this issue over, what’s basically a personal choice on their individual health. We cannot let these folks be cast aside. We cannot allow their jobs to be destroyed and their families and livelihoods, potentially, to be destroyed as well.”
Also in October, Abbott signed an order banning all employers from terminating employees over their vaccine status. The legislation was aimed in opposition to Biden’s order mandating vaccines for federal workers, as well as requiring vaccines or testing for numerous private employees.
“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19. I hereby suspend all relevant statutes to the extent necessary to enforce this prohibition,” Abbott wrote.