White House grants disaster declaration for state of Texas

State Capital Highlights



President Trump on March 25 issued a major disaster declaration for the state of Texas as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump’s action came at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking additional federal assistance to combat the disease. In recent days Abbott issued multiple waivers of state laws to remove barriers limiting the response to the pandemic. He also activated the Texas National Guard to be prepared to assist with response efforts.

Abbott said the president’s declaration “opens up new sources of funding for individual and public assistance that will help Texas respond to this public health emergency and protect public health and safety.”

Federal aid is earmarked to overcome current and prospective shortages of personal protective gear, medical equipment, testing supplies, hospital beds and medical personnel.

Meanwhile, Abbott has ordered the temporary closure of in-person school operations and prohibited non-critical visits to nursing homes, retirement or long-term care facilities. He also has mandated that Texans avoid: —Social gatherings of more than 10 people;

—Dine-in eating and drinking at bars or restaurants; and

—Gyms or massage establishments.

On March 28 the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 25,483 people had been tested so far for COVID-19 in Texas. Of those, 2,552 tests were reported as positive and there had been 34 deaths.

Quarantine orders issued

Gov. Abbott on March 26 issued an executive order mandating a self-quarantine for individuals traveling to Texas as their final destination through an airport from the New York- New Jersey-Connecticut area or from the city of New Orleans.

Abbott said the order, consistent with the guidance of Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, would be enforced by the Texas Department of Public

Safety. Self-quarantines will last 14 days or for the duration of a person’s presence in Texas, whichever is shorter.

Abbott said the executive order does not apply to people traveling in connection with military service, emergency response, health response or criticalinfrastructure functions, as may be determined by the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

The executive order would remain in force until he modifies, amends, rescinds or supersedes it, Abbott said.

On March 29, Abbott issued another executive order that expands the quarantine mandate to include air travelers arriving from the states of California, Louisiana and Washington and the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and Miami.

A person in quarantine is prohibited from allowing visitors into or out of the designated quarantine location — other than a physician or healthcare provider — and is prohibited from visiting any public spaces.

ED STERLING is the Director of Member Services at Texas Press Association.

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