June 4, 2020
Executive Order GA-26, implements “Phase III” of the state’s re-opening. The order is much different than previous orders, and the press release accompanying its release states that:
“Governor Greg Abbott today announced the third phase of the State of Texas’ plan to safely open the economy while containing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase III, effective immediately, all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at up to 50% capacity, with very limited exceptions. Businesses that previously have been able to operate at 100% capacity may continue to do so, and most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits. All businesses and customers should continue to follow minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
As with previous phases, the Phase III plan is based on the advice and support of the four doctors on the Strike Force to Open Texas medical team. Via Executive Order, Phase III begins immediately. A breakdown of Phase III can be found below.
‘The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe,’ said Governor Abbott. ‘As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants. Thanks to the effectiveness of our Surge Response Teams, we have the ability to contain those hot spots while opening up Texas for business. As we begin Phase III, I ask all Texans and Texas businesses to continue following the standard health protocols and to heed the guidance of our state and federal officials who continue to closely monitor COVID-19. If we remain vigilant, we will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health, and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities.’
Between May 26th and June 2nd, over 45% of new cases came from jails or prisons, meat packing plants, and nursing homes. There are currently 1,487 Texans hospitalized due to COVID-19. There are 20,679 active cases in the state and 45,858 Texans are estimated to have recovered.
Effective June 3:
-All businesses currently operating at 25% capacity can expand their occupancy to 50% with certain exceptions.
-Bars and similar establishments may increase their capacity to 50% as long as patrons are seated.
-Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with less than 1,000 confirmed positive cases may open at 50% capacity.
-Restaurants may expand their maximum table size from 6 to 10 persons.
Effective June 12:
-Restaurants may expand their occupancy levels to 75%.
-Counties with 10 or less active COVID-19 cases may expand their occupancy limits to 75%. Counties that fit this category but have not previously filed an attestation with DSHS will need to do so.
Effective June 19:
-Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 may open at 50% capacity.
-Special provisions have been made for outdoor gatherings, such as Fourth of July celebrations, but it is imperative that local officials and public health officials collaborate on safe standards. These provisions are included in the Governor’s Executive Order and are also available on the Open Texas web page.
-All businesses should continue to follow the minimum standard health protocols from DSHS. For details and a full list of guidelines, openings, and relevant dates, visit http://open.texas.gov.
Reminders for those going out:
-Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings.
-People should not be in groups greater than ten when possible.
-People over the age of 65 are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible.
-People are still asked to avoid nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities.”
What are the specifics of new Executive Order GA-226. Tto determine what’s open and which guidelines apply is to visit the governor’s Open Texas web page. That page indicates that the following new activities are now allowed according to the guidance document linked for each:
In addition, as mentioned in the governor’s press release above, the guidance for many previously re-opened “covered services” has been updated to allow up to 50 percent capacity.
Executive Order GA-26 is much different than previous orders. It provides that:
“Except as provided in this executive order or in the minimum standard health protocols recommended by DSHS, found at www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus, people should not be in groups larger than ten and should maintain six feet of social distancing from those not in their group.”
With regard to obtaining services, which are no longer referred to as “covered services,” it provides that:
-In providing or obtaining services, every person (including individuals, businesses, and other legal entities) should use good-faith efforts and available resources to follow the minimum standard health protocols recommended by DSHS.
-Nothing in this executive order or the DSHS minimum standards precludes requiring a customer to follow additional hygiene measures when obtaining services.
-Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings, but no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering.
What other provisions are included in the new order?
The order has other provisions that are similar to previous orders (they are paraphrased here):
-It supersedes local orders.
-Confinement in jail for a violation is not an option.
-Schools can operate for the remainder of the summer using Texas Education Agency protocols.
-People shall not visit nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities, with certain exceptions.
-It eliminates occupancy limits of any kind for, among other things: (1) religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship; (2) local government operations, including county and municipal governmental operations relating to licensing (including marriage licenses), permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, as determined by the local government [Editor’s note: This provision would appear to allow a city to continue or enact local occupancy limits for these services, if desired, that apparently trump state limits within the order]; (3) child-care services; (4) youth camps, and including all summer camps and other daytime and overnight camps for youths; and (5) recreational sports programs for youths and adults.
What about Fourth of July celebrations?
Of particular interest to many is the “outdoor events” category on the Open Texas web page, which allows for Fourth of July celebrations in a city. Gatherings of 500 or more require a mayor’s approval:
“Outdoor events, such as July 4 celebrations and other large outdoor gatherings with estimated attendance of 500 or more, are permissible to hold in Texas. The county judge or the mayor, as appropriate, in coordination with the local public health authority, may decide if a particular outdoor event should be modified or the occupancy further limited based on the facts and circumstances of the event and COVID-19 in the particular jurisdiction, based on the factors set forth below.”
The guidance further provides for the following “local approval factors:”
-Local approval for large outdoor gatherings (those with an estimated attendance exceeding 500 individuals) is appropriate in this instance because a statewide standard is unable to take into account the various factors needed to ensure such a gathering in varied locations is safe and will minimize the spread of COVID-19. Further, business parity is not an issue at large outdoor events.
-In evaluating large gatherings (those with an estimated attendance exceeding 500 individuals), the county judge or the mayor, as applicable, in consultation with the local public health authority, should consider the following factors:
1. The overall number of projected attendees;
2. The likelihood of individuals over the age of 65 attending;
3. The density of the forum and the ability to ensure social distancing of 6 feet between individuals; and
4. The level of transmission in the county.
-Gatherings of less than 500 individuals may proceed consistent with all the health protocols above without approval of the county judge, local health authority, or mayor, as applicable.
May 5, 2020
Gov. Abbott provided another update on May 5, 2020 on the state’s response to COVID-19 and the next phase of re-openings. Here are the highlights:
– Effective Friday, May 8: Cosmetology salons — hair salons, nail salons, tanning salons and barber shops — will be allowed to open with restrictions, including one customer per stylist and appropriate social distancing. The governor also strongly recommended masks for both stylists and customers, and using a reservation system to avoid grouping of walk-ins in waiting areas
– Effective Monday, May 18: Gyms and exercise facilities will be able to reopen with 25% capacity. Initial restrictions will include showers and locker rooms remaining closed, requirements for customers to wear gloves covering their whole hand, and the disinfection of all equipment after each use. Distancing will of course be required as well, and any equipment brought in (such as a yoga mat), must be disinfected before and after use.
– Non-essential manufacturing and other offices will be welcome to reopen Monday, May 18 to the greater of the following: five employees, or 25% of their workforce, provided that social distancing can be maintained
– Guidelines are still being worked out for bars, and the governor has requested that owners reach out to provide feedback
– Weddings, funerals, memorials and burials may now take place with the same regulations as religious services for a seated arrangement, with receptions following the regulations of restaurants
– More testing occurred statewide in Texas in the past two weeks than in all the time before that, and they will continue to expand testing in the weeks ahead
– The percentage of positive cases as compared to tests has continued to lower in recent weeks, down to 4.65% as of yesterday
– Texas recovery figures have now outnumbered active cases for four days, and hospitalizations are holding steady at about 10% of cases
Gov. Abbott also reaffirmed that while outdoor seating areas at restaurants do not have the same 25% capacity restrictions as indoor spaces, other regulations such as spacing between tables still apply.
Similarly, he clarified that regulations currently applied to state parks also apply to the state’s beaches, lakes and rivers, including river rafting; those restrictions include maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from others, and having no more than 5 in a group unless your party are all members of your household.
TEA Commissioner Morath also provided new guidance on class of 2020 graduation ceremonies for Texas school districts. The TEA is providing four different pathways for schools to celebrate their graduating seniors, and each district is at liberty to determine if any of these options best serve the needs and desires of their community:
- Completely virtual ceremonies that take place entirely online, with the use of videoconference or other technologies.
- Hybrid ceremonies, which consist of a compilation of videos of students being recognized in person as they celebrate graduation in small groups.
- Vehicle ceremonies, in which students and their families wait in their cars while other graduates are recognized one at time with their families alongside them.
- Outdoor in-person ceremonies, which are currently permitted for counties as follows:
- Between May 15 and May 31, an outdoor ceremony may take place in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the Governor’s Report to Open Texas that remains in effect 7 days prior to the ceremony.
- An outdoor ceremony may take place in any Texas county on or after June 1.
Full details of the TEA’s graduation ceremony guidance can be found on the TEA website.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to call City Hall at 361.449.1556.