Recently, additional action has been taken at both the state and county levels in Texas to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the state level, Governor Greg Abbott has issued three executive orders mandating both roadway and air travelers originating at certain locations to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days upon their arrival in Texas. Governor Abbott has also issued an executive order instructing all individuals in Texas, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, to minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. At the county level, the shelter in place orders issued last week by Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties have all been amended or clarified.

Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA 11, which took effect at 12.00 p.m. on March 28, 2020, requiring air travelers, subject to limited exceptions, from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or the City of New Orleans to self-quarantine for fourteen days. Exempt from the mandatory self-quarantine period are individuals traveling in connection with:

  • Military service
  • Emergency response
  • Health response
  • Critical-infrastructure functions including CISA’s Essential Critical Infrastructure Sectors

Governor Abbott has since issued a proclamation amending Executive Order GA 11, which added the following states and cities to the list of origin destinations requiring self-quarantine:

  • California
  • Louisiana
  • Washington
  • City of Atlanta, Georgia
  • City of Chicago, Illinois
  • City of Detroit, Michigan
  • City of Miami, Florida

Additionally, pursuant to Executive Order GA 12, which took effect at 12.00 p.m. on March 30, 2020, individuals, subject to limited exceptions, entering the State of Texas through roadways from Louisiana shall be subject to a mandatory self-quarantine for fourteen days. Exempt from the mandatory self-quarantine are individuals traveling in connection with:

  • Commercial activity
  • Military service
  • Emergency response
  • Health response
  • Critical-infrastructure functions including CISA’s Essential Critical Infrastructure Sectors

Executive Orders GA 11 and GA 12 do not currently have an expiration date and shall remain in effect until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor. Furthermore, Texas Department of Public Safety special agents are authorized to enforce both orders and will conduct unannounced visits to ensure compliance. Any failure to comply with the orders to self-quarantine shall be a criminal offense punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both.

Statewide order implementing essential services and activities protocol

On March 31, 2020, Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA 14, which is currently set to expire on April 30, 2020. Executive Order GA 14 orders that “every person in Texas shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.” Executive Order GA 14 defines “essential services” to include everything listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 2.0, plus religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship. The executive order indicates additional businesses may be added to the list of essential services, and that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) would maintain a current list on its website, located here.

What Texans should avoid: According to Executive Order GA 14, people should avoid:

  • Eating or drinking at bars and restaurants (although the order “highly encourages” the use of drive-thru, pickup, and delivery options for food and drinks)
  • Visiting gyms, massage establishments, tattoo studios, or cosmetology salons
  • Visiting nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance

Working from home encouraged: Executive Order GA 14 states that all services should be provided through remote telework from home unless they are essential services that cannot be provided through remote telework. In providing or obtaining essential services, the executive order encourages people and businesses to practice good hygiene, environmental cleanliness and sanitation, and implement social distancing.

What Texans can still do: The executive order does not prohibit people from accessing essential services or engaging in “essential daily activities,” as long as precautions are implemented to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. Examples of essential daily activities include:

  • Going to a grocery store or gas station
  • Visiting parks
  • Hunting or fishing
  • Engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling

Updates to metro areas’ stay-at-home orders

Dallas County

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has again amended the shelter-in-place order issued for Dallas County (Dallas County Order). Effective as of 11.59 p.m. on March 29, 2020, the following changes to the Dallas County Order have taken place:

  • Non-essential businesses may now conduct “Minimum Basic Operations.” This allows non-essential businesses to conduct the minimum activities necessary to maintain the value of their inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or related functions. Minimum basic operations also includes the minim activities necessary to facilitate employees of the business being able to work from home.
  • Construction for public works, residential, commercial, and schools is considered to fall within the definition of “Essential Businesses.” Construction for elective additions and maintenance is now prohibited.
  • Construction sites must follow the COVID-19 safety recommendations issued by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition.
  • Additional examples of “Essential Businesses” in certain subcategories have been added.

The entire list of essential businesses and additional requirements are described further in the Dallas County Order, available here.

Harris County

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has extended the Harris County “Stay Home – Work Safe Order” – which was set to expire on April 3, 2020 – until April 30, 2020. Accordingly, residents of Houston and surrounding parts of Harris County must continue to comply with the Harris County Order through the month of April.

Travis County

Travis County (where Austin is located) has recently issued guidance to clarify what types of construction are considered critical infrastructure and, therefore, essential businesses. Aside from residential construction for affordable housing or housing for the homeless, all other residential construction is prohibited. Additionally, commercial construction is prohibited under the Travis County Order. Travis County’s current guidance for the construction industry can be found here.

***Update as of April 3, 2020.  Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted to extend the Public Health Emergency, which was set to expire on April 3, 2020, until May 20, 2020.  Accordingly, residents of Dallas County must continue to comply with the Dallas County Order through the majority of the month of May.