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.
Under Governor Abbott’s most current COVID-19 order, GA-32, an “area of high hospitalizations” is defined as any Trauma Service Area (TSA) that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15%. If a TSA becomes an area of high hospitalizations, GA-32 requires any business operation with a 75% occupancy limit to be reduced to a 50% occupancy limit. The reduced occupancy limit continues until the TSA has seven consecutive days under 15%.
On December 27, 2020, the Texas Department of State Health Services notified Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff that TSA-P, which includes Bexar County, is an area of high hospitalizations as defined in GA-32. As a result, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff announced that GA-32’s reduced occupancy limits will go into effect on December 29, 2020. TSA-P also includes the following counties that are impacted by GA-32’s occupancy restrictions: Atascosa, Bandera, Comal, Dimmit, Edwards, Frio, Gillespie, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Karnes, and Kendall. Similar occupancy restrictions were previously instituted for numerous other Trauma Service Areas, notably TSA-E, which includes Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, Ellis, and 15 other contiguous counties; TSA-B, which includes Lubbock County; and the Trauma Service Areas surrounding Amarillo, Abilene, Longview, Lufkin, El Paso, Waco, Bryan-College Station, Galveston, and Laredo.
The reduction to a 50% occupancy limit under GA-32 applies to businesses that were previously at 75% occupancy, including restaurants; gyms; retail establishments, including vape stores and hobby stores; amusement parks; water parks; swimming pools; museums; libraries; zoos, aquariums, natural caverns, and similar facilities; and indoor and outdoor professional, collegiate and similar sporting events. Additionally, bars will remain closed.
Exempted businesses that are still allowed to operate at 100% despite high hospitalizations include religious services; CISA essential services (such as grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, pet stores, superstores, gun stores and shooting ranges, and certain manufacturing operations); local government operations; child-care services; youth camps; recreational sports (youth and adult); any public or private schools; and drive-in concerts, movies, or the like. Additionally, the following businesses may operate with 6 feet between work stations: cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops; nail salons; massage establishments or other facility where licensed massage therapists practice; other personal care or beauty services such as tanning salons, tattoo studios; piercing studios; hair removal studios and hair loss treatment or growth services.
As a final measure, all elective surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary to diagnose or correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient shall be postponed unless the surgery or procedure can be performed in a manner that is in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice and will not deplete any hospital capacity needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.
In addition to the occupancy restrictions triggered under GA-32, Judge Wolff issued Executive Order NW-19 on December 28, 2020. NW-19 extends many of the same measures previously in place, including the requirement for all commercial entities in Bexar County providing goods or services directly to the public to develop and implement a Health and Safety Policy and the face mask mandate for all persons 10 years or older with monetary violations for multiple instances of noncompliance. NW-19 continues to prohibit household social gatherings of more than 10 persons as well as large gatherings or events in excess of 10 people outdoors unless the gathering or event meets one of the expressly included exceptions. Additionally, NW-19 continues the temporary halt on residential evictions pursuant to the September 4, 2020 CDC Order for persons covered under the order and cancels foreclosure sales until further notice.
For more information about how these additional measures may impact your business, contact Julia Mann, Amanda Crouch, or a Jackson Walker attorney. Additionally, Jackson Walker continues to provide the most recent updates and information on the rapidly changing COVID-19 guidelines at JW.com/Coronavirus.
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.