Abbott To Sign Law Banning Vaccine Passports After Carnival Says It'll Ask For COVID Vaccine Proof

Gov. Greg Abbott said "not so fast" to Carnival's plan to ask Galveston cruise-goers to prove they've been vaccinated.
Gov. Greg Abbott said "not so fast" to Carnival's plan to ask Galveston cruise-goers to prove they've been vaccinated. Screenshot
Gov. Greg Abbott declared via Twitter Monday that he was about to sign a new law forbidding state businesses from asking customers to prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, just a few hours after Carnival Cruise Lines announced that two of its cruise ships would set sail from Galveston in July with only guests who’ve received a coronavirus vaccine on board.

Senate Bill 968 “prohibits any business operating in Texas from requiring vaccine passports or any vaccine,” Abbott wrote on Twitter Monday, before reiterating that “Texas is open 100 %without any restrictions or limitations or requirements.”
When the governor of Texas signs bills into law, they usually don’t go into effect until the following September, but since SB 968 was passed with over two-thirds approval in both the state House and Senate, it will be enacted as soon as it’s signed.

Earlier Monday morning, Carnival issued a press release announcing its plan “to return to guest operations from Port of Galveston'' with the Carnival Vista ship launching on July 3 and the Carnival Breeze ship taking off on July 15. The cruise line said these cruises would only be available “for guests who have received their final dose of a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination, in accordance with current guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Carnival president Christine Duffy said in a statement prior to Abbott’s announcement that “the current CDC requirements for cruising with a guest base that is unvaccinated will make it very difficult to deliver the experience our guests expect, especially given the large number of families with younger children who sail with us.”

“As a result,” Duffy continued, “our alternative is to operate our ships from the U.S. during the month of July with vaccinated guests.”

Abbott previously issued an executive order in April forbidding any Texas business or government agency from asking patrons for proof of vaccination. SB 968’s ban goes even further, however, due to the fact that Abbott’s executive order only covered entities that got funding from the state.

When asked about the new law, a representative from Carnival said in a statement that “We are evaluating the legislation recently signed into law in Texas regarding vaccine information.”

“The law provides exceptions for when a business is implementing COVID protocols in accordance with federal law,” the statement continued, “which is consistent with our plans to comply with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.”

Given how Abbott’s tweet announcing his intent to sign SB 968 was in response to a question about whether or not Texas would allow Carnival to ask for vaccine proof, it sure seems like he disagrees with the cruise line’s thinking here.
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Schaefer Edwards is a staff writer at the Houston Press who covers local and regional news. A lifelong Texan and adopted Houstonian, he loves NBA basketball and devouring Tex-Mex while his cat watches in envy.
Contact: Schaefer Edwards