Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an Executive Order Tuesday implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the entire state of Texas.
The governor did not issue a statewide stay-at-home order, as some had called on him to do, and the public is free to continue accessing essential services or conducting essential daily activities as defined below.
The protocols put into place Tuesday will run through April 30 and, "direct all Texans to minimize non-essential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household."
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The governor’s Executive Order renews and amends his previous order enforcing federal social distancing guidelines for COVID-19, including closing schools and instructing Texans to avoid eating or drinking at bars and restaurants or visiting gyms and massage parlors. The order was expanded to include avoiding tattoo studios, piercing studios and cosmetology salons.
The protocols allowing essential activities and services based on the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce remain unchanged, meaning those in essential services such as healthcare, grocery stores, banking and financial services, utilities, child care for essential service employees, and government services are permitted to continue operations.
Tuesday’s Executive Order follows the decision by President Donald Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enhance social distancing guidelines and extend the deadline for these guidelines through April.
Abbott added no public school will return to class or in-person instruction before May 4.
“Social distancing is our best tool in the fight against COVID-19, and the actions we have taken thus far have proven to be effective in limiting the spread of this virus,” said Abbott. “Now it is time to redouble our efforts to reduce further exposure as much as possible and flatten the curve. As with all the actions the state is taking, the Essential Services and Activities Protocols is informed by the expertise and guidance of the CDC as well as state and local health officials. I urge my fellow Texans to heed these heightened social distancing directives to protect their health and the health of those around them. By following these guidelines, we will limit the spread of COVID-19 and overcome this challenge together.”
In accordance with federal guidelines, people are still prohibited from visiting nursing home, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), said Abbott's amended order was a step in the right direction but appears to have pre-empted what some counties had established as rules for church gatherings.
“By ordering all activity – apart from seeking or providing essential services – to cease or be conducted via telework, Gov. Abbott has essentially created a statewide stay-at-home order. This can serve as a good baseline for counties that had none in place, even if it is less than what other counties have already done," Turner said. “However, his decision apparently overrules counties that have limited gatherings of more than ten in places of worship, which could pose a serious health risk to any congregation that chooses to not require video or tele-conferencing services in the weeks ahead. We need to learn more about how this order will co-exist with stronger, local orders and we’ll look to local leaders for guidance on that question."
What Are Essential Daily Activities
- Going to the grocery store or gas station
- Providing or obtaining essential services
- Hunting or fishing
- Engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling, so long as "physical distancing" guidance is followed
- Religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship are allowed
All critical infrastructure will remain operational, and government entities and businesses will continue providing essential services.
What Are Essential Services Sectors
- Healthcare / Public Health
- Law Enforcement, public safety and other first responders
- Food and agriculture
- Water and wastewater
- Transportation and logistics
- Public Works and infrastructure support services
- Communications and Information Technology
- Community or government-based operations
- Critical manufacturing
- Hazardous materials
- Financial services
- Defense industrial base
- Commercial facilities
- Residential/Shelter facilities and services
- Hygiene products and services
- Religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship.
More detail on essential services can be found here.