Federal and Texas Governments Provide COVID-19 Related Guidance

July 30, 2021 | Insights

As companies of all types and sizes continue to deal with the potential legal implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for their businesses, Jackson Walker provides insights and resources on the COVID-19 Legal Resources & Insights site.

By Amanda Crouch

On July 29, 2021, President Biden and Governor Abbott provided guidance relating to COVID-19.

President Biden’s Announcement for Federal Matters

At a press conference, President Biden announced that all federal personnel and visitors to federal buildings must wear face coverings that cover the nose and mouth. Additionally, all federal government employees will be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Anyone who does not attest or is not vaccinated will be required to wear a face covering, be tested regularly, practice social distancing, and limit travel for work. President Biden also announced he was directing his administration to take steps to apply similar standards to all federal contractors.

The White House has not yet issued any executive orders related to this announcement. Jackson Walker will continue to provide coverage of any news related to this announcement or COVID-19 generally at JW.com/Coronavirus.

Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38

Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA-38 relating to the continued response to the COVID-19 disaster. The order provides requirements and guidance regarding testing, vaccines, and operating limits for businesses and other establishments.

GA-38 requires all hospitals licensed under Chapter 241 of the Texas Health and Safety Code and all Texas state-run hospitals (except for psychiatric hospitals) to submit to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) daily reports of hospital bed capacity in the manner prescribed by DSHS. The order also requires private or public entities that are utilizing an FDA-approved test to submit daily reports of all test results, both positive and negative, to DSHS.

Regarding vaccines, GA-38 prohibits any governmental entity from compelling any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization. Under the order, state agencies and political subdivisions also shall not adopt or enforce any order, ordinance, policy, regulation, rule, or similar measure that requires an individual to provide, as a condition of receiving a service or entering a business, documentation regarding vaccine status for any COVID-19 vaccine administered under emergency use authorization.

The order also states any public or private entity that is receiving or will receive public funds through any means, including grants, contracts, loans, or other disbursements of taxpayer money, shall not require a consumer to provide documentation regarding vaccine status for any COVID-19 vaccine administered under emergency use authorization as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place. Under GA-38, the prohibition against requiring vaccines or documentation regarding vaccine status supersedes any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster; however, the order does not limit the ability of nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities to require documentation of a resident’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine.

Regarding face coverings, the executive order prohibits any governmental entity or official from requiring any person to wear a face covering or mandating that another person wear a face covering. This provision in the order supersedes any face covering requirement imposed by any local governmental entity or official. State supported living centers, government owned or operated hospitals, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, and all county and municipal jails may continue to use appropriate policies regarding the wearing of face coverings.

GA-38 encourages individuals to follow safe practices in areas where the COVID-19 transmission rate is high, including wearing face coverings over the nose and mouth when social distancing is not feasible. The order specifies, however, that a face covering may not be required or mandated in any jurisdiction in Texas. It also provides that there are no COVID-19 related operating limits for any business or other establishment. The executive order allows business activities and legal proceedings to proceed without COVID-19 related limitations imposed by local governmental entities or officials. These provisions supersede any conflicting local order in response to the COVID-19 disaster.

The order allows public schools to follow guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency and encourages private schools and institutions of higher education to establish similar standards. The executive order directs nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities to follow the guidance of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. County and municipal jails shall follow guidance from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards regarding visitations.

The final provisions of GA-38 state that confinement in jail is not an available penalty for violating this executive order. The order also states it suspends various laws to the extent necessary to ensure that local officials do not confine people in jail for violating any executive order or local order in response to the COVID-19 disaster. GA-38 supersedes all pre-existing COVID-19 related orders and rescinds them in their entirety with the exception of GA 13 (relating to detention in county and municipal jails during the COVID-19 disaster) and GA-37 (restricting the transportation of migrants in Texas due to COVID-19).

For more information and continued coverage of COVID-19-related orders, visit JW.com/Coronavirus.

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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