Governor Abbott’s Plan to Reopen Texas Economy

Governor Abbott’s Plan to Reopen Texas Economy

Governor Abbott’s Plan to Reopen Texas Economy

 

Katie Gourley commercial real estate attorney with Andrews Myers in Houston, TXHouston — April 28, 2020  Yesterday afternoon, Governor Abbott  issued three new executive orders (Executive Orders GA-18, GA19, and  GA-20), marking the beginning of a phased reopening of the Texas economy. In light of the expiration of Governor Abbott’s “stay home” order on April 30, 2020, the most recent executive orders lay the groundwork for getting Texans back to work. In total, these orders allow certain targeted businesses to reopen with limited occupancy, provide guidance for vulnerable populations, such as those 65 and older, implement a mitigation plan for nursing homes, roll out a statewide testing and tracing program, and remove certain travel-based restrictions on individuals.

Under Phase One, “Essential Services,” as previously defined in Executive Order GA-14, shall remain operational in their current capacities (i.e., not subject to any occupancy limitations). However, pursuant to Executive Order GA-18, retail stores, dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, museums, and libraries may resume operations beginning this Friday, May 1, 2020. Such “Reopened Services,” as they are defined in GA-18, must limit operations to 25% of their occupancy. Additionally, restaurant valet services shall remain suspended, and food court dining, play areas, and interactive displays in shopping malls and museums must remain closed. Businesses operated by a single person working alone may recommence, and local government operations, such as those related to permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, may resume as determined by the local government. At this time, Reopened Services expressly exclude bars, gyms, public swimming pools, interactive amusement venues such as
bowling alleys and video arcades, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, and cosmetology salons. However, the Governor has expressed the desire to reopen these businesses by mid-May.

In order to promote the reopening of Texas businesses in a safe and hygienic manner, DSHS has issued minimum health standard protocols for individuals, employers, and employees, as well as industryspecific protocols for retailers, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, libraries, and each of their respective customers or guests, outdoor sports participants, single-person offices, churches, and counties with low impact from COVID-19. These protocols, along with additional information outlining the new guidance and recommendations, can be found in Texans Helping Texans: Governor’s Report to Open Texas.

Areas which have avoided outbreaks will be able to reopen at an accelerated rate. Counties with five or fewer confirmed cases may increase capacity for restaurants, retail, shopping malls, museums, libraries, and/or movie theaters if the county judge certifies and affirms to DSHS that the following standards have been investigated and confirmed to be met:

(1) The county had five or fewer COVID-19 laboratory confirmed cases on April 30, 2020 or, at a later date, five or fewer active COVID-19 cases as verified by DSHS.
(2) The county has created a list of testing opportunities in the county or area.
(3) The county has been in contact with its designated regional advisory council to ensure the community is prepared for any needed health care transfers.
(4) The county has provided public notice to the residents of the county, including (i) signs and symptoms of COVID-19, (ii) recommended health and safety protocols in line with CDC guidance, (iii) information regarding how residents can get tested in the area, and (iv) a link to the DSHS website where residents can go to learn about
community spread in nearby communities, in order to help county residents understand their risk to exposure if they travel regularly outside of the country.
(5) The county has contacted all nursing homes, assisted living facilities, as well as industrial, agricultural, and business facilities with a significant number of employees, and city and county jails located in the county to ensure they are complying with HHSC and CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19.
(6) The county is equipped and prepared to protect vulnerable populations, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
(7) The county has documented procedures to be activated if a resident becomes COVID-19 positive, including procedures to take appropriate measures as necessary in line with the plan to open Texas.
(8) The county has contacted DSHS in order to create a plan to ensure contact tracing will occur within 48 hours of a positive test reported to DSHS.

While the ultimate goal of the Governor’s Executive Orders is to reopen and revitalize the Texas economy, GA-18 also continues to emphasize the importance of social distancing and good personal hygiene, especially by vulnerable populations such as the elderly. Nursing homes, living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities will remain closed to outside visitors, except for those providing critical care. A comprehensive mitigation plan to protect residents of nursing homes and other care facilities has been published alongside the Governor’s Orders, and can be found beginning on page 9 of the Governor’s Report. Churches and other places of worship remain open, subject to the ongoing social distancing recommendations. In addition, individuals are permitted to resume outdoor sports, so long as such activity is limited to no more than four participants. Individuals are encouraged to use face
masks, however the use of such masks is not mandatory and no jurisdiction may impose a penalty for failure to do so.

Governor Abbott issued two additional Executive Orders in connection with GA-18, addressing hospital capacity requirements, as well as restrictions on individual travel moving forward. Under Executive Order GA-19, hospitals shall be required to continue reserving at least 15% of facility capacity for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Executive Order GA-20 eliminates the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for individuals traveling from Louisiana. However, a mandatory 14-day quarantine period remains in effect for individuals traveling from California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, as well as Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; and Miami, Florida.

Phase One of the plan to Open Texas will begin this Friday, May 1, 2020, and continue through May 18, 2020, at which time the Governor will evaluate the safety of advancing to Phase Two.

For additional questions about these programs, please contact Katie Gourley.

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