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Governor Abbott Announces Phase III To Open 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, 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 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, and GA-23 over the course of April and May 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 Open Texas; and

WHEREAS, as normal business operations resume, everyone must act safely, and to that end, this executive order and prior executive orders provide that all persons should follow the health protocols recommended by 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, 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, 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 DSHS Commissioner Dr. Hellerstedt and other medical advisors, the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House, and the CDC, do hereby order the following on a statewide basis effective immediately:

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 3.1 or any subsequent version;

b.   religious services 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; and

f.    recreational sports programs for youths and adults;

2.   Except as provided below by paragraph number 5, this 50 percent occupancy limit does not apply to outdoor areas, events, or establishments, except that the following outdoor areas or outdoor venues shall operate at no more than 50 percent of the normal operating limits as determined by the owner:

a.   professional, collegiate, or similar sporting events;

b.   swimming pools;

c.   water parks;

d.   museums and libraries;

e.   zoos, aquariums, natural caverns, and similar facilities; and

f.    rodeos and equestrian events;

3.   This 50 percent occupancy limit does not apply to 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;

4.   Amusement parks and carnivals shall operate at no more than 50 percent of the normal operating limits as determined by the owner, except that in counties with more than 1,000 cumulative cases of COVID-19, amusement parks may not begin operating until 12:01 a.m. on June 19, 2020;

5.   For any outdoor gathering estimated to be in excess of 500 people, other than those set forth above in paragraph numb            ers 1, 2, or 4, the county judge or mayor, as appropriate, in consultation with the local public health authority, may impose additional restrictions;

6.   For dine-in services by restaurants that have less than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages, the occupancy limit shall increase at 12:01 a.m. on June 12, 2020, to permit such restaurants to operate at up to 75 percent of the total listed occupancy of the restaurant;

7.   For indoor bars and similar indoor establishments that are not restaurants as defined above and that hold a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, only those customers who are seated may be served;

8.   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 starting 12:01 a.m. on June 12, 2020;

9.   For purposes of this executive order, facilities with retractable roofs are considered indoor facilities, whether the roof is opened or closed; and

10. Staff members are not included in determining operating levels, except for manufacturing services and office workers.

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.  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.

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.

People shall not visit nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities unless 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.  Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary, the governor may by proclamation add to the list of establishments or venues that people shall avoid visiting.

For the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, public schools may resume operations for the summer 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, schools may conduct graduation ceremonies consistent with the minimum standard health protocols found in guidance issued by TEA.

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-23, but does not supersede Executive Orders GA-10, GA-13, GA-17, GA-19, GA-20, GA-24, or GA-25.  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.

Source: Office of the Texas Governor; https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-announces-phase-iii-to-open-texas2

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