Governor Greg Abbott Expands Capacity for Certain Services in Texas
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, in each subsequent month effective through today, I have renewed the disaster declaration for all Texas counties; and
WHEREAS, I have issued executive orders and suspensions of Texas laws in response to COVID-19, 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 social-distancing restrictions for Texans in accordance with guidelines promulgated by President Donald J. Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and
WHEREAS, I issued Executive Order GA-14 on March 31, 2020, expanding the social-distancing restrictions for Texans based on guidance from health experts and the President; and
WHEREAS, I subsequently issued Executive Orders GA-16, GA-18, GA-21, GA-23, and GA-26 from April through early June 2020, aiming to achieve the least restrictive means of combatting the threat to public health by continuing certain social-distancing restrictions, while implementing a safe, strategic plan to reopen Texas; and
WHEREAS, as Texas reopens in the midst of COVID-19, increased spread is to be expected, and the key to controlling the spread and keeping Texas residents safe is for all Texans to consistently follow good hygiene and social-distancing practices, especially those set forth in the minimum standard health protocols from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS); and
WHEREAS, in June 2020, Texas experienced substantial increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, necessitating targeted and temporary adjustments to the reopening plan to achieve the least restrictive means for reducing the growing spread of COVID-19 and the resulting imminent threat to public health, and to avoid a need for more extreme measures; and
WHEREAS, I therefore issued Executive Orders GA-28 and GA-29 in late June and early July 2020, respectively, and amended Executive Order GA-28 by proclamation on July 2, 2020; and
WHEREAS, due to improved medical treatments for COVID-19 patients, substantial increases in testing, abundant supplies of personal protective equipment, and Texans’ adherence to safe practices like social distancing, hand sanitizing, and use of face coverings, the spread of COVID-19 and the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have steadily and significantly declined since late July; and
WHEREAS, as Texas continues to reopen, everyone must act safely, and to that end, this executive order and prior executive orders provide that all persons should follow the health protocols from DSHS, which whenever achieved will mean compliance with the minimum standards for safely reopening, but which should not be used to fault those who act in good faith but can only substantially comply with the standards in light of scarce resources and other extenuating COVID-19 circumstances; and
WHEREAS, in the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, the legislature charged the governor with the responsibility “for meeting … the dangers to the state and people presented by disasters” under Section 418.011 of the Texas Government Code, and expressly granted 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, failure to comply with any executive order issued during the COVID-19 disaster is an offense punishable under Section 418.173 by a fine not to exceed $1,000, and may be subject to regulatory enforcement;
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, and in accordance with guidance from the Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, Dr. John Hellerstedt, other medical advisors, the White House, and the CDC, do hereby order the following on a statewide basis effective at 12:01 a.m. on September 21, 2020:
Every business establishment in Texas shall operate at no more than 50 percent of the total listed occupancy of the establishment; provided, however, that:
1. There is no occupancy limit for the following:
a. any services listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 4.0 or any subsequent version;
b. religious services, including those conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship;
c. 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;
d. child-care services;
e. youth camps, including but not limited to those defined as such under Chapter 141 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, and including all summer camps and other daytime and overnight camps for youths;
f. recreational sports programs for youths and adults;
g. any public or private schools, and any public or private institutions of higher education, not already covered above; and
h. drive-in concerts, movies, or similar events, under guidelines that facilitate appropriate social distancing, that generally require spectators to remain in their vehicles, and that minimize in-person contact between people who are not in the same household or vehicle.
2. The following types of business establishments may operate at up to 75 percent of the total listed occupancy of the establishment, except for those establishments in areas with high hospitalizations as defined below:
a. in-store, non-CISA retail establishments;
b. dine-in restaurants, as defined below in paragraph No. 7;
c. non-CISA office buildings;
d. non-CISA manufacturers;
e. museums and libraries; and
f. gyms and exercise facilities and classes.
“Areas with high hospitalizations” means any Trauma Service Area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of all hospitalized patients exceeds 15 percent, until such time as the Trauma Service Area has seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of all hospitalized patients is 15 percent or less. A current list of areas with high hospitalizations will be maintained at www.dshs.texas.gov/ga3031.
3. Except as provided below by paragraph No. 6, this 50 percent occupancy limit does not apply to outdoor areas, events, or establishments, except that the outdoor areas or outdoor venues identified in paragraph No. 2 of Executive Order GA-28 shall operate at no more than the percentage of normal operating limits as was set forth in Executive Order GA-28.
4. There is no occupancy limit for the following establishments that operate with at least six feet of social distancing between work stations:
a. cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons/shops, and other establishments where licensed cosmetologists or barbers practice their trade;
b. massage establishments and other facilities where licensed massage therapists or other persons licensed or otherwise authorized to practice under Chapter 455 of the Texas Occupations Code practice their trade; and
c. other personal-care and beauty services such as tanning salons, tattoo studios, piercing studios, hair removal services, and hair loss treatment and growth services.
5. Amusement parks shall operate at no more than 50 percent of the normal operating limits as determined by the owner.
6. For any outdoor gathering in excess of 10 people, other than those set forth above in paragraph Nos. 1, 2, 3, or 5, the gathering is prohibited unless the mayor of the city in which the gathering is held, or the county judge in the case of a gathering in an unincorporated area, approves of the gathering, and such approval can be made subject to certain conditions or restrictions not inconsistent with this executive order.
7. Only restaurants that have less than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages, and whose customers eat or drink only while seated, may offer dine-in services.
8. People shall not visit bars or similar establishments that hold a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) and are not restaurants as defined above in paragraph No. 7; provided, however, that the use by such bars or similar establishments of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options for food and drinks is allowed to the extent authorized by TABC.
9. People shall not use commercial rafting or tubing services, including rental of rafts or tubes and transportation of people for the purpose of rafting or tubing.
10. For any business establishment that is subject to a 50 percent “total listed occupancy” limit or “normal operating limit,” and that is in a county that has filed with DSHS, and is in compliance with, the requisite attestation form promulgated by DSHS regarding minimal cases of COVID-19, the business establishment may operate at up to 75 percent of the total listed occupancy or normal operating limit of the establishment.
11. For purposes of this executive order, facilities with retractable roofs are considered indoor facilities, whether the roof is opened or closed.
12. Staff members are not included in determining operating levels, except for manufacturing services and office workers.
13. 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 shall not be in groups larger than 10 and shall maintain six feet of social distancing from those not in their group.
14. People over the age of 65 are strongly encouraged to stay at home as much as possible; to maintain appropriate distance from any member of the household who has been out of the residence in the previous 14 days; and, if leaving the home, to implement social distancing and to practice good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation.
15. 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.
16. Nothing in this executive order or the DSHS minimum standards precludes requiring a customer to follow additional hygiene measures when obtaining services.
17. People may visit nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities 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 HHSC, including minimizing the movement of staff between facilities whenever possible; and
18. Public schools may operate as provided by, and under the minimum standard health protocols found in, guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Private schools and institutions of higher education are encouraged to establish similar standards.
Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary, the governor may by proclamation add to the list of establishments or venues that people shall not visit.
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 services allowed by this executive order, allows gatherings prohibited by this executive order, or expands the list or scope of services as set forth in this executive order. Pursuant to Section 418.016(a) of the Texas Government Code, 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 in response to the COVID-19 disaster that are 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.
All existing state executive orders relating to COVID-19 are amended to eliminate confinement in jail as an available penalty for violating the executive orders. To the extent any order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster would allow confinement in jail as an available penalty for violating a COVID-19-related order, that order allowing confinement in jail is superseded, and I hereby suspend all relevant laws to the extent necessary to ensure that local officials do not confine people in jail for violating any executive order or local order issued in response to the COVID-19 disaster.
This executive order supersedes Executive Order GA-28, but does not supersede Executive Orders GA-10, GA-13, GA-17, GA-19, GA-24, GA-25, GA-27, or GA-29. This executive order shall remain in effect and in full force unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor. This executive order may also be amended by proclamation of the governor.
Given under my hand this the 17th day of September, 2020.
Governor Greg Abbott