Gov. Abbott announced his second phase to reopen Texas businesses, Executive Order GA-21, in a news conference May 18. Most businesses that reopened in early May continue to operate at limited capacity, while others began operating at full capacity immediately. Child care facilities, including YMCA and Girls and Boys Clubs, fully reopened. Gym reopenings, however, must stay under 25% capacity with closed showers and locker rooms. Office buildings also opened May 18 and were limited to occupancy of no greater than five employees or 25% capacity.
Some of the other activities and services allowed to open in a series of May dates include:
May 22 — Restaurant capacity increased to 50%. Bars, wine tasting and craft breweries reopened at 25% capacity. Occupancy limits do not apply to outdoor areas for these venues.
May 26 — Driver education programs resumed and food court dining areas in shopping malls opened with suggested health and safety practices.
May 29 — Water parks open with 25% operating capacity limit. Video arcades within water parks remain closed.
May 31 — Youth sports and summer camps may open but must follow special safety standards and minimum standard health protocols. Adult recreational sports programs resume with games starting June 15.
June 1 — Public schools may open for in-person summer instruction.
Restrictions remain in place until May 29 for El Paso County, due to high COVID-19 case counts, and for Potter, Randall, Deaf Smith and Moore counties where officials are responding to outbreaks related to meat packing plants.
Driver License Offices Reopen
May 26 — The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) began a phased reopening of driver license offices and also launched a statewide driver license appointment system allowing appointments to be set up to six months in advance. The openings began with the Northwest and West Texas DPS regions and by June 3; all DPS regions will open with limited services. Current driver license extensions remain in effect until Phase 4 is implemented sometime this summer; details will be announced at a later date by DPS.
Jail Visits Suspended
May 22 — Governor Abbott suspended in-person visits in all county and municipal jails in Texas to contain potential hot spots and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in jails and surrounding communities. This order adds to previous visitation restrictions of state prisons, jails and juvenile justice facilities mandated in the April statewide disaster declaration. Jails are encouraged to use virtual visitation strategies while the restriction does not apply to visitation by an attorney, religious leader or member of the clergy.
The first orders reopening the state, Executive Order GA-18, allowed certain businesses to open at 25% of their maximum occupancy capacity on May 1, while others followed later in the month. However, on May 5, Abbott advanced the date for hair and nail salons, barber shops and swimming pools allowing them to reopen on May 8. Days later, he modified those executive orders to retroactively eliminate confinement as a punishment for violating an order. Additionally, the statewide COVID-19 disaster declaration was extended through mid-May for all 254 counties, then extended again on May 12, for 30 days through early June.
The complete list of opened services and activities and the effective dates can be found on the governor’s Open Texas web page. For more information on the content of this article, contact Aurora Flores.