At a press conference on April 27, Governor Greg Abbott announced that he will allow his existing order GA-16 to expire on April 30. He plans to “set a new course,” based on “data and doctors,” that will allow as many businesses to re-open as possible so long as we can contain the spread. To that end he released the Open Texas Report and issued three new executive orders:
EXECUTIVE ORDER GA-18: Keeps stay home/work home in place, except to access essential or re-opening services while following appropriate guidelines. It continues the order that retail services may be provided through pickup, delivery by mail, or delivery to the customer’s doorstep.
In addition, starting on Friday, May 1, 2020, it opens up the following:
- In-store retail services, for retail establishments that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the retail establishment.
- Dine-in restaurant services, for restaurants that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the restaurant; provided, however, that: (a) this applies only to restaurants that have less than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages and are therefore not required to post the 51 percent sign required by Texas law as determined by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission; and (b) valet services are prohibited except for vehicles with placards or plates for disabled parking.
- Movie theaters that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of any individual theater for any screening.
- Shopping malls that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the shopping mall; provided, however, that within shopping malls, the food-court dining areas, play areas, and interactive displays and settings must remain closed.
- Museums and libraries that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy; provided, however, that: (a) local public museums and local public libraries may so operate only if permitted by the local government; and (b) any components of museums or libraries that have interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas, must remain closed.
- Services provided by an individual working alone in an office.
- Golf course operations.
- Local government operations, including county and municipal governmental operations relating to permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, as determined by the local government.
The conditions and limitations set forth above for reopened services shall not apply to essential services, and the governor can impose more stringent requirements on a county if he chooses.
In addition, the order covers the following:
- Religious services should be conducted in accordance with the joint guidance issued and updated by the attorney general. On April 27, the attorney general issued updated guidance on houses of worship.)
- People shall avoid visiting bars, gyms, public swimming pools, interactive amusement venues such as bowling alleys and video arcades, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, or cosmetology salons. The use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options for food and drinks remains allowed and highly encouraged.
- The executive order does not prohibit people from accessing essential or reopened services or engaging in essential daily activities, such as going to the grocery store or gas station, providing or obtaining other essential or reopened services, visiting parks, hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activity like jogging, bicycling, or other outdoor sports, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.
- In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall not visit nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance as determined through guidance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities should follow infection control policies and practices set forth by the HHSC, including minimizing the movement of staff between facilities whenever possible.
- In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, schools shall remain temporarily closed to in-person classroom attendance by students and shall not recommence before the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
EXECUTIVE ORDER GA-19: Applies standards to health care workers and facilities.
EXECUTIVE ORDER GA-20: Modifies the previous orders relating to restricted travel into the state.
Does Executive Order GA-18 supersede local orders? Yes, at least partially. The order contains superseding language similar to previous ones:. According to the Governor, “This executive order shall supersede any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster, but only to the extent that such a local order restricts essential services or reopened services allowed by this executive order, allows gatherings prohibited by this executive order, or expands the list of essential services or the list or scope of reopened services as set forth in this executive order. I hereby suspend Sections 418.1015(b) and 418.108 of the Texas Government Code, Chapter 81, Subchapter E of the Texas Health and Safety Code, and any other relevant statutes, to the extent necessary to ensure that local officials do not impose restrictions inconsistent with this executive order, provided that local officials may enforce this executive order as well as local restrictions that are consistent with this executive order.”