Governor tells Texans to minimize gatherings, in-person contact

Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the entire state of Texas on Tuesday. The protocols direct all Texans to minimize nonessential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. This order is to remain in place through April 30, 2020.

The Governor’s Executive Order renews and expands his previous directive to minimize social gatherings and minimize contact with people who are not in the same household. It also renews the Governor’s directive to avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts, and visiting gyms or massage establishments, and it expands the order to include tattoo studios, piercing studios and cosmetology salons.

In accordance with federal guidelines, people are still prohibited from visiting nursing homess, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance. Additionally, schools will remain temporarily closed to in-person classroom attendance through May 4, 2020.

This Executive Order does not prohibit activities such as hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. All critical infrastructure will remain operational, and government entities and businesses will continue providing essential services.

The protocols allow exceptions for essential activities and services based on the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. Examples of these essential services include healthcare, grocery stores, food delivery/to go restaurants, agriculture, banking and financial services, utilities, communication and technology, childcare for essential service employees, and government services. All local restaurants are allowed to operate as they have been with only drive-through, curbside and delivery service since Governor Abbott’s first declaration that closed down dine-in.

On March 27, Atascosa County Judge Bob Hurley made the Governor’s rule of law about no public or private gatherings of 10 or more and the rule of 6 feet of social distancing a punishable offense pursuant to Government Code §418.173. Violation of this order is an offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days. Last week, Judge Hurley called on the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office to close down the flea market at the Atascosa County Livestock Auction yards because they were violating both rules.

As of Tuesday, Gov. Abbott reports 42,922 Texans have been tested. Of those 3,266 have confirmed positive for COVID-19 and, 41 deaths have been reported. “When you look around your community, one thing is clear, distancing practices you are doing are working,” he said. “But as Pres. Trump said, now is not the time to let up in these distancing efforts. Now is the time to do more.”

The Governor announced that there is currently a 98 percent availability of hospital beds available in Texas for COVID-19 patients. He said that hospital beds have doubled over the past week. He also detailed the joint effort between the state, the Texas Military Department (TMD), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to identify and equip additional locations to serve as health care facilities if hospital capacity is exhausted. The first of these sites will be the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

“While hospitals will remain the primary location to treat and care for those in need, we are ensuring that Texas is prepared for any possible scenario in which current hospital capacity is exhausted,” said Governor Abbott. “This joint initiative with the Texas Military Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will expand the care capacity in communities across Texas.”

On Sunday, the Governor expanded a mandated 14 day self-quarantine for all individuals arriving from the following states and cities:

• New York Tri-State Area

• California

• Louisiana

• Washington

• Atlanta, Georgia

• Chicago, Illinois

• Detroit, Michigan

• Miami, Florida

The following are few of many announcements posted last week by the governor’s office relating to actions to combat COVID-19:

Texas received a $16.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living to provide meals for older adults. The grant was part of a $250 million outlay authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law by President Trump on March 18.

Texas received $36.9 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of the state’s initial allotment of funding from the first emergency coronavirus bill passed by Congress. The Texas Department of State Health Services will distribute $19.5 million to 43 local health departments to aid in their COVID-19 response, including $1.75 million for Dallas County, Tarrant County and the San Antonio Metro Health District. Remaining funds will be used by DSHS to support operations in areas of the state not covered by local health departments and for statewide response activities.

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