Governor Abbott Issues Executive Order to Mitigate Spread of COVID-19 in Texas

March 19, 2020 | Insights

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.

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