Governor Abbott Issues Executive Order on Essential Services and Activities

March 31, 2020 | Insights

– March 31, 2020

By Brad Nitschke & Kate Goodrich

On March 31, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring every person in Texas to minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, including those identified by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or to attend religious services. The Texas Division of Emergency Management has published an online list that provides guidance in interpreting which services fall within the definition of an essential service.

The order extends the Governor’s prior directive to avoid “eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, or cosmetology salons” and the prior prohibition of most visits to nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities.

Governor Abbott also ordered Texas schools to remain closed to in-person classroom attendance through at least May 4, 2020.

Expressly excluded from the order are “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.”

The order states it supersedes any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster to the extent the local order restricts essential services allowed by the Governor’s order or allows gatherings prohibited by the Governor’s order.

 This order will remain in place until April 30, 2020.

– March 19, 2020

By Brad Nitschke, Denise Rose, Amanda Crouch, & Kate Goodrich

Today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order implementing statewide restrictions on activities, as a result of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Governor Abbott’s Order cites “Guidelines from the President and the CDC” and implements statewide restrictions intended to bring consistency to the patchwork of regulations imposed by local officials in several Texas counties. Effective from 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 20 through at least April 3, 2020, the Executive Order:

  • Instructs every person in Texas to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people. (The Order does not prohibit people from visiting a variety of places, including grocery stores, gas stations, parks, and banks so long as “necessary precautions” are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19).
  • Orders people to avoid dining and drinking within bars and restaurants, while “allow[ing] and highly encourag[ing] drive-thru, pickup, and delivery options….”
  • Directs Texans to avoid visiting gyms and massage parlors.
  • Bans visits to “nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities except to provide critical assistance.” While today’s Executive Order does not specifically address whether such “critical assistance” includes end-of-life visits, recent media reports suggest the Governor intended as recently as March 13 to allow these visits provided visitors “go through proper screening.”
  • Closes all Texas schools.

The Executive Order emphasizes that it is not a shelter-in-place order, as have been implemented in some other jurisdictions. And while the Order does not specifically impose restrictions on non-social workplace gatherings, as some local public health measures have, it encourages “offices and workplaces that remain open” to ensure that employees “practice good hygiene and, where feasible, work from home in order to achieve optimum isolation from COVID-19.”

For up-to-date information on legal issues implicated by the current public health emergency in Texas, visit Jackson Walker’s Coronavirus microsite.

Related Resources:

Please note: This article and any resources presented on the JW Coronavirus Insights & Resources site are for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal or medical advice, and are not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Jackson Walker. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed.

In This Story

Amanda N. Crouch
Partner, San Antonio

Kate Goodrich
Governmental Affairs Consultant, Austin

Denise Rose
Partner, Austin