Legal Resources for County COVID-19 Response

As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves in Texas, TAC Legal Services staff are closely monitoring the situation and working to remain responsive to the needs of TAC members.

We offer the following information to our members to assist them in responding to COVID-19. This information will be updated so please check back frequently.

Last updated 5-22-20

Government Actions

On March 13, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation and press release declaring a State of Disaster.

On March 19, Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference announcing an Executive Order and a Declaration of Public Health Disaster. The Executive Order is effective from midnight Friday, March 20 until midnight Friday, April 3, but may be extended.

On March 31, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the entire state of Texas. The protocols direct all Texans to minimize non-essential gatherings and 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. Schools will remain temporarily closed to in-person classroom attendance through May 4, 2020.These orders will be effective on a statewide basis starting at 12:01 AM on April 2, 2020 and will end on April 30, 2020, subject to extension thereafter based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the CDC.

On April 12, 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott renewed the disaster proclamation.

On April 17, 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott issues three executive orders:

  • Executive Order No. GA-15 relating to hospital capacity during the COVID-19 disaster. In recognition of the need to reserve hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients, the Governor orders all licensed health care professionals and licensed health care facilities to postpone all surgeries and medical procedures that are not medically necessary, subject to the following exceptions: any procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster; or any surgery or procedure performed in a licensed health care facility that has certified in writing to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission both: (1) that it will reserve at least 25% of its hospital capacity for treatment of COVID-19 patients, accounting for the range of clinical severity of COVID-l9 patients; and (2) that it will not request any personal protective equipment from any public source, whether federal, state, or local, for the duration of the COVID-19 disaster. GA-15 is effective at 11:59pm on April 21, 2020 and continues in force until May 8, 2020 unless rescinded or superseded by the Governor. GA-15 effectively is an extension of the earlier GA- 09 which was issued on March 22, 2020 and expires at 11: 59pm on April 21, 2020.
  • Executive Order No. GA- 16 relating to the safe, strategic reopening of select services as the first step to Open Texas in response to the COVID-19 disaster. GA-16 modifies Executive Order GA-14 to authorize non-essential retail businesses beginning on April 24, 2020 to provide "to go" services by pickup, delivery by mail, or delivery to the customer's doorstep in strict compliance with terms set out by DSHS. The order also states that schools "shall not recommence before the end of the 2019-2020 school year." GA-16 remains in effect until April 30, 2020.
  • Executive Order No. GA-17 relating to the establishment of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas. The Governor has authorized creation of a task force consisting of medical professionals and public and private leaders to assist and advise him on revitalizing the Texas economy as it recovers from the COVID-19 disaster and to study the process of safely easing restrictions on state business designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. The members of the group are named here.

On April 27, Gov. Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-18. This executive order supersedes Executive Order GA-16, but does not supersede Executive Orders GA-10, GA-11, GA-12, GA-13, GA-15, or GA-17.  This order remains in effect until 11:59 p.m. on May 15, 2020, unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor. The Governor's Report to Open Texas was also released to provide additional guidance.

On May 5, Gov. Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-21. This executive order supersedes Executive Order GA-18, but does not supersede Executive Orders GA-12, GA-13, GA-17, GA-19, or GA-20. This executive order remains in effect until 11:59 p.m. on May 19, 2020, unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.

  • The order expands the definition of "reopened services" to immediately include wedding venues and related wedding services subject to occupancy restrictions.
  • On Friday May 8th, cosmetology, hair, and nail salons as well as tanning salons may reopen subject to social districting restrictions. If permitted by the local government, local public swimming pools also may reopen on May 8th subject to occupancy restrictions.
  • On Monday May 18th, manufacturing facilities may reopen subject to occupancy restrictions, as may gyms, exercise facilities and exercise classes subject both to occupancy restrictions and required closed locker rooms and shower facilities. Also on May 18th, offices that operate at up to the greater of five individuals or 25% of the total office workforce may reopen provided that employees maintain appropriate social distancing.
  • The executive order authorizes students to return to their schools to clean out lockers or return equipment and authorizes graduation ceremonies in accordance with Texas Education Agency (TEA) health protocols.
  • See here for additional information on the attestation process to increase occupancy limits in counties with five or fewer COVID-19 cases.
  • Texans Back to Work Task Force Report, released on May 6, includes over 400 recommendations for employers, employees, state and local government and the public. The report includes immediate recommendations, recommendations for the next 100 days and long-term strategies for the future.

On May 7, Gov. Greg Abbott modified his executive orders related to COVID-19 to eliminate confinement as a punishment for violating these orders. These modifications are being applied retroactively.

On May 11, 2020, Governor Abbott issued a proclamation suspending certain provisions of the Texas Election Code to expand the early voting period for the July 14, 2020 primary runoff election and other elections occurring on that date. Pursuant to the Governor's proclamation, the early voting period for any election authorized to occur on July 14, 2020 will begin on Monday, June 29, 2020 and last through Friday, July 10, 2020, excluding any legal state or federal holidays.

On May 18, Gov. Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-23  announcing the second phase of the plan to open additional businesses and activities in Texas. This announcement expands upon the businesses and activities included in the first phase of the plan to Open Texas. This executive order supersedes Executive Orders GA-21 and GA-22, but does not supersede Executive Orders GA-b, GA-13, GA-17, GA-19, or GA-20. This executive order remains in effect until 11:59 p.m. on June 3, 2020, unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.

Guidance for County Officials

We offer the following information on specific statutory responsibilities that may be implemented by county officials as the COVID-19 outbreak evolves.

COVID-19 Guidance from TAC Legal Service

Government Communications

Communications Relating to County Responsibilities:

Contacts

Texas Association of Counties (800) 456-5974
TAC Legal Services Department (888) 275-8224
TAC Risk Management Pool Claims (855) 472-5246
Texas Department of Emergency Management (512) 424-2208

THIS PUBLICATION IS A RESEARCH TOOL AND NOT THE COUNSEL OF AN ATTORNEY. THIS PUBLICATION IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE ADVICE OF AN ATTORNEY.

It is provided without warranty of any kind and, as with any research tool, should be double checked against relevant statutes, case law, attorney general opinions and advice of legal counsel e.g., your county attorney. Each public officer is responsible for determining duties of the office or position held. Any question regarding such duties should be directed to competent legal counsel for a written opinion.