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 8-7-20
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.
On June 23, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation amending paragraph number 5 of Executive Order GA-26 to allow the county judge, in consultation with the local public health authority, to impose additional restrictions on any outdoor gathering estimated to be in excess of 100 people. The proclamation will remain in effect and in full force for as long as Executive Order GA-26 is in effect and in full force, unless otherwise modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.
On June 26, 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-28 to limit certain businesses and services in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. The order states that all bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from alcoholic beverage sales must close at 12:00 p.m. on June 26th, but they may remain open for delivery and take-out only. Starting on June 29, 2020, restaurants may remain open, but cannot exceed 50% of their listed indoor occupancy. Rafting and tubing businesses must close and outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments. Certain exceptions may apply. This executive order supersedes Executive Order GA-26, but does not supersede Executive Orders GA-10, GA-13, GA-17, GA-19, GA-24, GA-25, or GA-27. This executive order shall remain in effect and in full force unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor. This executive order may also be amended by proclamation of the governor.
On June 29, 2020 the Texas Supreme Court issued the 18th Emergency Order regarding the COVID-19 state of disaster. This order renews and amends paragraphs 3-12 of the 17th Emergency Order issued on May 26, 2020.
On July 2, 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation amending Executive Order GA-28 giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people, with certain exceptions. Additionally, Gov. Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-29 requiring all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases. Certain exceptions may apply. This executive order does not supersede Executive Orders GA-10, GA-13, GA-17, GA-19, GA-24, GA-25, GA-27, or GA-28 as amended. This executive order shall remain in effect and in full force unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor. This executive order may also be amended by proclamation of 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
Communications Relating to County Responsibilities:
- Registration and Title Requirements, Parking Placards, Temporary Registration Permits
- Proclamation Allowing for Postponement of Local Elections
- Secretary of State Elections Advisory: Actions for May 2 Uniform Election Date
- Residential Eviction Proceedings
- Open Meeting Laws Subject to Temporary Suspension
- Health Care Fees Waived for Incarcerated Texans in TDCJ Facilities
- Temporary Suspension of Residential Eviction Proceedings
- 14-Day Quarantine For Travelers Arriving From New York Tri-State Area, New Orleans
- HHSC Request Of 1135 Medicaid Waiver
- Action To Expand Texas Hospital Capacity
- Approval Of Major Disaster Declaration
- Federal Grant for Senior Citizen Meals
- Order To Strengthen Reporting Capabilities
- Certain Regulations for Telemedicine
- AG Guidance: Orders issued by local officials do not apply to restrict the conduct of state business.
- AG Opinion KP-0396: Orders issued under Gov't Code section §418.108 may not regulate or restrict the sale of firearms.
- Executive Order No. GA-13 relating to detention in county and municipal jails during the COVID-19 disaster.
- AG Files Intervention to Prevent the Release of Over 4,000 Dangerous Individuals in Harris County.
- Governor mandates 14-Day Quarantine For Road Travelers Arriving In Texas From Any Location In Louisiana.
- AG Warns Texans to Be Aware of Scams and Price Gouging
- Governor and AG Guidance for Houses of Worship Operating as Essential Services
- AG Guidance for Houses of Worship During the COVID-19 Crisis
- AG Opinion KP-0299: Purely economic, non-physical damage to property caused by the COVID-19 disaster is not eligible for the temporary tax exemption provided by section 11.35 of the Tax Code.
- AG Letter to Chairwoman Klick, concluding that fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability under the Election Code for purposes of receiving a ballot by mail.
- AG Opinion KP-0304: Government Code section 418.108 does not, by itself, authorize a county judge, a mayor of a municipality, or any other local government official to commandeer private property to respond to a disaster.
- AG Opinion KP-0305: A Texas driver's license that on its face lists an expiration date of March 13, 2020, or later is not expired under the Governor's suspension of laws and related DPS guidance until 60 days after the DPS provides further public notice that normal driver's license operations have resumed.
- AG Opinion KP-0306:The Dallas County Judge does not have authority to regulate the operation of pawnshops during the COVID-19 disaster declaration.
- AG Opinion KP-0307: Tax Code subsection 41.45(o) and 34 Texas Administrative Code subsection 9.805(d) do not allow appraisal review boards to require protest hearings to be conducted by videoconference in lieu of in-person hearings when requested by a property owner.
- AG Opinion KP-0308: The Texas and U.S. Constitutions prohibit governmental action that unlawfully discriminates on the basis of residence; thus, to the extent a local ordinance restricting access to or limiting occupancy of private property exceeds these boundaries, it is unconstitutional.
- AG Legal Guidance on School Reopening
- AG Opinion KP-0323: Authority of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County to prohibit service and access to its transit authority system to a person who refuses to comply with a rule requiring facial coverings.
- AG Opinion KP-0322: County authority to require facial coverings in courtrooms, courthouses, and county buildings.
- AG Opinion KP-0324: Authority of local governmental entities operating under local emergency declarations, to delay, prohibit, or restrict eviction procedures established by the Legislature in chapter 24 of the Property Code
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.