Texas Gov. Abbott Issues Executive Order Relating To The Expanded Reopening Of Services

(STL.News) –  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, on April 12, 2020, I issued a proclamation renewing the disaster declaration for all counties in 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 renewed that determination on April 17, 2020; 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 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, shortly before Executive Order GA-08 expired, I issued Executive Order GA-14 on March 31, 2020, based on the President’s announcement that the restrictive social-distancing Guidelines should extend through April 30, 2020, in light of advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, and also based on guidance by DSHS Commissioner Dr. Hellerstedt and Dr. Birx that the spread of COVID-19 can be reduced by minimizing social gatherings; and

WHEREAS, Executive Order GA-14 superseded Executive Order GA-08 and expanded the social-distancing restrictions and other obligations for Texans that are aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, including by limiting social gatherings and in-person contact with people (other than those in the same household) to providing or obtaining “essential services,” and by expressly adopting federal guidance that provides a list of critical-infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue as “essential services” during the COVID-19 response; and

WHEREAS, after more than two weeks of having in effect the heightened restrictions like those required by Executive Order GA-14, which have saved lives, it was clear that the disease still presented a serious threat across Texas that could persist in certain areas, but also that COVID-19 had wrought havoc on many Texas businesses and workers affected by the restrictions that were necessary to protect human life; and

WHEREAS, on April 17, 2020, I therefore issued Executive Order GA-17, creating the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas to study and make recommendations on safely and strategically restarting and revitalizing all aspects of the Lone Star State—work, school, entertainment, and culture; and

WHEREAS, also on April 17, 2020, I issued Executive Order GA-16 to replace Executive Order GA-14, and while Executive Order GA-16 generally continued through April 30, 2020, the same social-distancing restrictions and other obligations for Texans according to federal guidelines, it offered a safe, strategic first step to Open Texas, including permitting retail pick-up and delivery services; and

WHEREAS, Executive Order GA-16 is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on April 30, 2020; and

WHEREAS, Texas must continue to protect lives while restoring livelihoods, both of which can be achieved with the expert advice of medical professionals and business leaders; 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 immediately, and continuing through May 15, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and the CDC:

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 or reopened services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.  People over the age of 65, however, 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.

“Essential services” shall consist of everything listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 3.0 or any subsequent version, 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 any approved additions.