Three days after governors met with President Donald Trump via video conference to discuss economic reopening guidelines, Texas became one of the first states to begin the slow and strategic process of reopening. On April 17, Governor Greg Abbott announced three executive orders which began the multi-phase process for Texas which he said will be driven by data and doctors.
The first phase of reopening the state's economy included a series of executive orders beginning with the creation of the Strike Force to Open Texas (GA-17). Abbott assembled a team of recognized medical experts and public and private leaders to advise him through the entirety of the reopening process. Product pick up, or "Retail-To-Go" (GA-16), allowed retail outlets to begin reopening April 24. The businesses reopening under the order are required to utilize curbside pickup or deliver items to customer's cars, homes or other locations for minimized person-to-person contact. Check here to determine which businesses are defined as essential services.
Schools remain closed. Under Executive Order GA-16, public, private and higher education institutions will remain closed for the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers may go into the classroom for video instruction, to perform administrative duties and to clean out their classrooms.
Loosened restrictions on surgeries. Executive Order GA-15, the third executive order Abbott laid out, amends restrictions previously implemented in March. Beginning at midnight April 21 through midnight May 8, this order allows some limited nonessential surgeries provided that the procedures do not deplete hospital capacity or personal protection equipment. Exceptions to this executive order can be found in this proclamation.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needs continue. Local governments need specific, critical PPE for first responders and health care workers. PPE distribution priorities and processes are monitored by the Governor's Supply Chain Strike Force to meet statewide supply needs. Additionally, local elected officials can email pandemic related questions to the Governor's office.
State parks are now open. The reopening of parks began April 20 with some stipulations – visitors are required to wear a face covering, maintain a six-foot distance and cannot gather in groups of more than five.
Local government funding is available. Federal funds of $38 million for COVID-19 emergency relief are available April 15 until June 15, through the Governor's Public Safety Office (PSO). These funds come from the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program authorized by the Emergency Appropriations for Coronavirus Health Response and Agency Operations Act. Please visit the PSO's eGrants grant management website to register and apply for funding. Check here for detailed information on eligibility, key dates and the application process. Funding requirements include but are not limited to:
- Jurisdictions using the funds to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.
- Allowable projects and purchases include, but are not limited to, overtime, equipment, supplies, training, travel expenses and addressing the medical needs of inmates in local jails and detention centers.
Prior to establishing plans to reopen Texas, Governor Abbott issued an executive order for the entire state urging Texans to stay home to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. The directive excluded those taking part in essential services and activities. The directive closed schools through May 4, shuttered non-essential businesses and allowed takeout and delivery only for restaurants.
The Texas Association of Counties continues to work in local partnership with the Governor's office, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Department of State Health Services and other key stakeholders to address COVID-19. For more information on the Governor's executive orders and contents of this article, please contact Aurora Flores.