Governor Abbott Issues Executive Order Implementing Essential Services And Activities Protocols
WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on March 13, 2020, certifying under Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in the State of Texas; and
WHEREAS, the Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Dr. John Hellerstedt, has determined that COVID-19 represents a public health disaster within the meaning of Chapter 81 of the Texas Health and Safety Code; and
WHEREAS, I have issued numerous executive orders and suspensions of Texas laws in response to the COVID-19 disaster, aimed at protecting the health and safety of Texans and ensuring an effective response to this disaster; and
WHEREAS, I issued Executive Order GA-08 on March 19, 2020, mandating certain obligations for Texans in accordance with the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, as promulgated by President Donald J. Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 16, 2020, which called upon Americans to take actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 for 15 days; and
WHEREAS, Executive Order GA-08 is subject to expiration at 11:59 p.m. on April 3, 2020, absent further action by the governor; and
WHEREAS, on March 29, 2020, to avoid scenarios that could lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths, the President announced that, based on advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, the restrictive social-distancing Guidelines should extend through April 30, 2020; and
WHEREAS, DSHS Commissioner Dr. Hellerstedt and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Birx say that the spread of COVID-19 can be reduced by minimizing social gatherings; and
WHEREAS, on March 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 2.0, which provides an advisory list of critical-infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue during the COVID-19 response; and
WHEREAS, for state agencies and their employees and agents, the Office of the Attorney General of Texas has advised that local restrictions issued in response to the COVID-19 disaster do not apply to restrict the conduct of state business; and
WHEREAS, all government entities and businesses should be allowed to continue providing essential services during the COVID-19 disaster, and all critical infrastructure should be allowed to remain operational; and
WHEREAS, the “governor is responsible for meeting … the dangers to the state and people presented by disasters” under Section 418.011 of the Texas Government Code, and the legislature has given the governor broad authority to fulfill that responsibility; and
WHEREAS, under Section 418.012, the “governor may issue executive orders … hav[ing] the force and effect of law;” and
WHEREAS, under Section 418.016(a), the “governor may suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business … if strict compliance with the provisions … would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster;” and
WHEREAS, under Section 418.017(a), the “governor may use all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope with a disaster;” and
WHEREAS, under Section 418.018(c), the “governor may control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area and the movement of persons and the occupancy of premises in the area;” and
WHEREAS, under Section 418.173, failure to comply with any executive order issued during the COVID-19 disaster is an offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Texas, do hereby order the following on a statewide basis effective 12:01 a.m. on April 2, 2020, and continuing through April 30, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the CDC and the White House Coronavirus Task Force:
In accordance with guidance from DSHS Commissioner Dr. Hellerstedt, and to achieve the goals established by the President to reduce the spread of COVID-19, every person in Texas shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.
“Essential services” shall consist of everything listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 2.0, plus religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship. Other essential services may be added to this list with the approval of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). TDEM shall maintain an online list of essential services, as specified in this executive order and in any approved additions. Requests for additions should be directed to TDEM at EssentialServices@tdem.texas.gov or by visiting www.tdem.texas.gov/essentialservices.
In providing or obtaining essential services, people and businesses should follow the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, implementing social distancing, and working from home if possible. In particular, all services should be provided through remote telework from home unless they are essential services that cannot be provided through remote telework. If religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, they should be conducted consistent with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, and by implementing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, or cosmetology salons; provided, however, that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options for food and drinks is allowed and highly encouraged throughout the limited duration of this executive order.
This executive order does not prohibit people from accessing essential services or engaging in essential daily activities, such as going to the grocery store or gas station, providing or obtaining other essential services, visiting parks, hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling, 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.
In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, schools shall remain temporarily closed to in-person classroom attendance and shall not recommence before May 4, 2020.
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 allowed by this executive order or allows gatherings prohibited by 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.
This executive order supersedes Executive Order GA-08, but not Executive Orders GA-09, GA-10, GA-11, GA-12, or GA-13, and shall remain in effect and in full force until April 30, 2020, unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.
Given under my hand this the 31st day of March, 2020.
Governor Greg Abbott