AUSTIN, Texas (KCBD) - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a news conference on Texas’ economic response to COVID-19 at noon Friday, April 17 from inside the State Capitol.
During the news conference, he issued three new Executive Orders to begin the process of reopening of the of the state of Texas while revising hospital capacity and certain social distancing guidelines. He also closed all Texas schools through the remainder of the school year, stating there will only be distance learning.
“Within the orders, select activities and services that pose minimal to no threat of spreading COVID-19 are allowed to reopen using a “Retail-To-Go” model, certain restrictions on surgeries have been loosened, and schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year,” said the Governor in a news release.
Governor Abbot also established the Strike Force to Open Texas—"a team of nationally recognized medical experts and private and public leaders who will advise the Governor on safely and strategically reopening the state of Texas."
"Texans are battling a colossal challenge—an invisible enemy that has tested our lives and our livelihoods—but overcoming challenges is part of who we are as Texans," said Governor Abbott. "We have shown that Texas can continue our efforts to contain COVID-19 while also adopting safe standards that will allow us to begin the process of reopening Texas. The Strike Force to Open Texas brings together nationally recognized medical experts with public and private sector leaders to achieve this mission. By coming together, we can get Texans back to work, practice safe standards that will prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we can overcome this pandemic."
For more information about the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, visit the strike force webpage.
The following information is from the Governor of Texas website:
The Governor’s second Executive Order (GA-16) relates to the safe, strategic reopening of select services and activities in Texas, according to the Governor’s news release. This order establishes a temporary “Retail-To-Go” model that will allow retail outlets in Texas to reopen beginning Friday, April 24. Under this model, reopened establishments are required to deliver items to customer’s cars, homes, or other locations to minimize contact.
The state has provided guidance for opening retail businesses here.
Under this Executive Order, schools — including 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.
The Governor’s third Executive Order (GA-15) relates to hospital capacity and personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for the COVID-19 response. The order loosens restrictions on surgeries put in place by Governor Abbott in March. Beginning at 11:59 p.m. on April 21 through 11:59 p.m. on May 8, all licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities must continue to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary to diagnose or correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without timely performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death as determined by a patient’s physician. Exceptions now include:
- Any procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the PPE needed to cope with COVID-19, or
- Any surgery or procedure performed in a licensed health care facility that has certified in writing to Texas HHSC 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-19 patients, and (2) that it will not request any PPE from any public source — whether federal, state, or local — for the duration of the COVID-19 disaster.
The Governor also directed state parks to reopen on Monday, April 20 with strict guidelines to reduce transmission of COVID-19 – including requiring visitors to wear face coverings, maintain a six-foot distance from individuals outside of their party, and prohibiting the gathering of groups larger than five.
The Trump administration on Thursday, April 16, issued new guidelines for states, individuals and employers on how to gradually revive activity and ease up on social distancing in areas where COVID-19 cases are on the decline.
The guidelines, given to governors Thursday by the Trump administration, are published under the headline “Opening Up America Again.”
According to the White House website, the following is part of Phase One:
- SCHOOLS AND ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES (e.g., daycare, camp) that are currently closed should remain closed.
- VISITS TO SENIOR LIVING FACILITIES AND HOSPITALS should be prohibited. Those who do interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene.
- LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.
- ELECTIVE SURGERIES can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient basis at facilities that adhere to CMS guidelines.
- GYMS can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.
- BARS should remain closed.
Also for Employers:
- Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.
- If possible, RETURN TO WORK IN PHASES.
- Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce strict social distancing protocols.
- Minimize NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
- Strongly consider SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS for personnel who are members of a VULNERABLE POPULATION.
- ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to shelter in place. Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.
- All individuals, WHEN IN PUBLIC (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others. Social settings of more than 10 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.
- Avoid SOCIALIZING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing (e.g., receptions, trade shows)
- MINIMIZE NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
The Texas Education Agency released this clarification on Friday:
We have received several questions from districts regarding the Governor’s newest Executive Order on schools issued earlier today. For further guidance, please see our statement below.
“Following on Governor Abbott’s Executive Order on schools issued this afternoon, it is important to note that while the Governor’s decision continues the closure of school buildings for in-person classroom attendance for the duration of the 2019-20 school year, it in no way ends at-home instructional support for Texas’s millions of students.
“School districts across Texas have worked diligently to make the transition to virtual learning. Students must continue to receive daily academic support from their teachers and schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
“Thank you to our superintendents, principals, and teachers for their leadership in ensuring that academic progress continues during this unprecedented public health crisis. We fully support your efforts.”
We have posted our statement on all of TEA’s social media channels; if helpful, feel free to share or reuse on your social media accounts to help inform parents about what the rest of the academic year will look like for their children.