Catching Up: A Summary of Texas Rules Currently in Place Regarding COVID-19

May 27, 2020 | Insights



– May 27, 2020

By Kate Goodrich

Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, expanding Executive Order GA-23’s enumerated list of activities and services that may resume under the state’s second wave of reopenings. Governor Abbott’s most recent proclamation will allow food courts in shopping malls to reopen immediately, although his press release still encourages malls to take extraordinary precautions, including designating one or more people who are responsible for enforcing social distancing and ensuring tables are cleaned and disinfected between uses.

Beginning Friday, May 29, 2020, water parks will be allowed to operate at up to 25% of the normal operating limits, provided any video arcade components must remain temporarily closed.

Recreational sports programs for adults may restart May 31, 2020, though games and similar competitions may not resume until June 15.

Abbott also permitted driver education programs to resume operations immediately.

Governor Abbott’s proclamation states that it will remain in effect and in full force for as long as Executive Order GA-23 is in effect and in full force, unless amended by the governor. Additional minimum standard health protocols outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) are recommended and located on the Open Texas website.
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– May 21, 2020

By Amanda Crouch & Kate Goodrich

On May 18, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-23 relating to the expanded opening of Texas in response to COVID-19. Under GA-23, additional businesses may reopen subject to guidance and protocol checklists provided by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) and the CDC.

  • Beginning May 22, 2020:
    • Bars, wine tasting rooms, breweries, and other similar businesses may resume operations at 25% capacity provided that any interactive components, including child play areas, interactive games, and video arcades, must remain closed (see protocols for Bars and for Bar Patrons).
    • Bowling alleys, bingo halls, simulcast racing, and skating rinks may resume operations at 25% capacity, provided that (1) bowling alleys ensure six feet of social distancing between operating lanes, and (2) components of the establishments that have video arcades must remain closed.
    • Aquariums, natural caverns, and similar facilities (excluding zoos) can resume operations at 25% capacity.
    • Dine-in restaurants may expand to 50% occupancy provided that any components of the restaurants with interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas, interactive games, and video arcades, must remain closed.
    • Drive-in concerts, under guidelines that facilitate social distancing by requiring spectators to remain in their vehicles and minimize in-person contact between people who are not in the same household or vehicle may resume.
    • Amateur sporting events where access by the general public is not allowed, and for which all participants have tested negative for COVID-19 prior to the event.
  • Beginning May 29, 2020:
    • Zoos may resume operations at 25% of outdoor operating capacity. Indoor areas of the zoos, other than restrooms, must remain closed and any components of the zoos that have interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas, must remain closed. Additionally, local public zoos may operate only if permitted by the local government.
  • Beginning May 31, 2020:
  • Beginning June 1, 2020:
    • Public school districts may offer in-person classroom instructional activities and learning options, such as summer school programs, special education evaluations, specialized assessments, and individualized tutoring under the minimum standard health protocols found in guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
    • While public education teachers and staff are encouraged to continue to work remotely from home, teachers and staff may return to schools to conduct remote video instruction to perform administrative duties and to provide in-person classroom instructional activates and learning options as offered by school districts.

With respect to the directives for public school districts, GA-23 incorporates guidance from the TEA regarding minimum standard health protocols for public education students to visit campus for limited non-instructional administrative tasks (such as cleaning out lockers, collecting personal belongings and returning school items like band instruments and books) or for graduating seniors to complete post-secondary requirements that cannot be accomplished absent access to the school facility and its resources.

View the TEA’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Guidance webpage »
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Private schools and institutions of higher education may reopen, but are encouraged to establish health and safety protocols similar to those that apply to public schools.

Guidance for Employers With Reopened Businesses

DSHS has issued guidance for employers to help protect the health and safety of all employees, contractors, and customers as businesses reopen.

Additional return-to-work guidance from Jackson Walker’s COVID-19 task force can be found at JW.com/Coronavirus, including the recent webinar “COVID-19: Returning to Work.”

Guidance for Healthcare Professionals

On April 27, Governor Abbott issued Executive Order (GA-19) which allowed hospitals to begin to resume elective surgeries, but requires that hospitals must reserve 15% capacity for COVID-19 patients. In response, the Texas Medical Board implemented a temporary Emergency Rule advising physicians on notice and compliance requirements concerning COVID-19 minimum standards and practices.

This interim emergency rule requires minimum safety requirements for all physicians and their offices. This rule sets a minimum set of standards for all physicians who are going to engage in an-person encounter with patients, including four rules:

  1. a mask must be worn by both the patient and physician or the physician’s delegate when in proximity of the patient (meaning less than a 6-foot distance between the patient and the physician or the physician’s delegate);
  2. follow policies the physician, medical and healthcare practice, or facility has in place regarding COVID-19 screening and testing and/or screening patients;
  3. that, before any encounter, patients must be screened for potential symptoms of COVID-19 or verified previously screened within last 20 days; and
  4. that prior to care involving a medical procedure or surgery on the mucous membranes, including the respiratory tract, with a high risk of aerosol transmission, the minimum safety equipment used by a physician or physician’s delegate should include N95 masks, or an equivalent protection from aerosolized particles, and face shield.

For additional guidance, check out this Jackson Walker Fast Takes podcast episode featuring Healthcare Chair Virginia Mimmick or read “Texas Medical Board Issues Emergency Rule in Response to Governor Abbott’s Hospital Capacity Executive Order.”

GA-23’s Impact on Prior Orders

GA-23 supersedes GA-21 (issued on May 5, 2020, related to the reopening of certain services to 25%) and GA-22 (issued on May 7, 2020, clarifying the reopening for certain services and eliminating confinement in jail as an available penalty for any violation of an order).

By its express terms, GA-23 does not supersede the following prior orders from the governor, which currently remain in full force and effect:

  • GA-10 (issued on March 24, 2020): Requiring daily reporting from hospitals of COVID-19 information and data
  • GA-13 (issued on March 29, 2020): Suspending certain provisions of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to reduce the jail population and prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • GA-17 (issued on April 17, 2020): Establishing the Strike Force to Open Texas
  • GA-19 (issued on April 27, 2020): Regarding hospital operations and reserved space for treatment of COVID-19 patients

While GA-23 is applicable to all counties in Texas, the governor has ordered certain counties to delay expanding operations by one week due to increased COVID-19 infections. Expansion of operations under GA-23 is delayed by one week in El Paso, Randall, Potter, Moore, and Deaf Smith counties.

GA-23 will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on June 3, 2020, unless otherwise modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded.

GA-24 Terminates Air Travel Restrictions Related to COVID-19

On May 21, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-24 immediately terminating the air travel restrictions imposed in the Governor’s previous Executive Order GA-20, which mandated temporary quarantines for air travelers arriving from the states of California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Washington and the cities of Atlanta, Georgia, Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, Michigan and Miami, Florida.

Any mandatory self-quarantine already in effect as a result of GA-20 is also terminated by GA-24 effective immediately.

Get additional insights about Abbott’s executive order terminating air travel restrictions related to COVID-19 »
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Meet Amanda

Amanda N. Crouch is a commercial litigator who regularly practices in state and federal court. Amanda has represented clients in a wide range of litigation matters, including oil and gas disputes, creditor representation, financial institution disputes, life insurance disputes, and defending personal injury claims.

Meet Kate

Kate Goodrich is a governmental affairs consultant in Jackson Walker’s Austin office. She started her career as a federally registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and grew to become a senior advisor to legislators at the Texas Capitol. Kate’s background in state and federal government gives her an in-depth and practical knowledge of the legislative and appropriations processes. She is a respected member of the governmental affairs community and has forged deep relationships at the Capitol and beyond. Kate graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and is licensed to practice law in the state of Texas.

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Please note: This article and any resources presented on the Jackson Walker Coronavirus microsite do not constitute legal or medical advice.