What you need to know about reopening the state of Texas

Posted on 07/02/2020 by Austin Chamber of Commerce

(Updated 7/2/2020)

Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order 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, with few exceptions. The Governor also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of over 10 people, and making it mandatory that, with certain exceptions, people cannot be in groups larger than ten and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others.

"Wearing a face covering in public is proven to be one of the most effective ways we have to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Abbott. “We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another—and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces. Likewise, large gatherings are a clear contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases. Restricting the size of groups gatherings will strengthen Texas’ ability to corral this virus and keep Texans safe. We all have a responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe. If Texans commit to wearing face coverings in public spaces and follow the best health and safety practices, we can both slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Texas open for business. I urge all Texans to wear a face covering in public, not just for their own health, but for the health of their families, friends, and for all our fellow Texans.”

Additionally, the Governor released a new video message to coincide with his Executive Order, encouraging Texans to do their part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and keep their communities safe. The video can be viewed on YouTube.

View the Governor's Executive Order.

View the Governor's Proclamation.

(Updated 6/26/2020)

On June 26, Governor Greg Abbot issued an executive order limiting certain businesses and services as part of the state’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. This decision comes as the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of hospitalizations have increased and the positivity rate in Texas increased above 10%, which the Governor previously stated would lead to further preventative action. The targeted, measured directives in the executive order are based on links between certain types of businesses and services and the recent rise in positive cases throughout the state.

The order includes the following:

  • All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at 12:00 PM today. These businesses may remain open for delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
  • Restaurants may remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy, beginning Monday, June 29, 2020.
  • Rafting and tubing businesses must close.
  • Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.

View the Governor’s Executive Order.



(Updated 6/25/2020)

Governor Abbot Announces Temporary Pause of Additional Reopening Phases

On June 25, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the State of Texas will pause any further phases to open Texas as the state responds to the recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Businesses that are permitted to open under the previous phases can continue to operate at the designated occupancy levels and under the minimum standard health protocols provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” said Governor Abbott. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business. I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others. The more that we all follow these guidelines, the safer our state will be and the more we can open up Texas for business.”


Executive Order Expanding Hospital Capacity:

On June 25, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order to ensure hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients as Texas faces an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The Governor’s order suspends elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties. Under this order, the Governor directs all hospitals in these counties to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.

Through proclamation, the Governor can add or subtract from the list of counties included in the Executive Order to address surges in hospitalizations that may arise in other parts of the state.

“As Texas faces a rise in COVID-19 cases, we are focused on both slowing the spread of this virus and maintaining sufficient hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients,” said Governor Abbott. “These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today’s action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients. As we work to contain this virus, I urge all Texans to do their part to help contain the spread by washing their hands regularly, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing."

View the Governor’s Executive Order


(Updated 6/4/2020)

On June 3, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott announced the third phase of the State of Texas’ plan to safely open the economy while containing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase III, effective immediately, all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at up to 50% capacity, with very limited exceptions. Business that previously have been able to operate at 100% capacity may continue to do so, and most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits. All businesses and customers should continue to follow minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

As with previous phases, the Phase III plan is based on the advice and support of the four doctors on the Strike Force to Open Texas medical team. Via Executive Order, Phase III begins immediately.

View the Governor's Executive Order.


Effective June 3:

  • All businesses currently operating at 25% capacity can expand their occupancy to 50% with certain exceptions.
  • Bars and similar establishments may increase their capacity to 50% as long as patrons are seated.
  • Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with less than 1,000 confirmed positive cases may open at 50% capacity.
  • Restaurants may expand their maximum table size from 6 to 10 persons.


Effective June 12:

  • Restaurants may expand their occupancy levels to 75%.
  • Counties with 10 or less active COVID-19 cases may expand their occupancy limits to 75%. Counties that fit this category but have not previously filed an attestation with DSHS will need to do so.


Effective June 19:

  • Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 may open at 50% capacity.


Additional Openings:

Special provisions have been made for outdoor gatherings, such as Fourth of July celebrations, but it is imperative that local officials and public health officials collaborate on safe standards. These provisions are included in the Governor's Executive Order and are also available on the Open Texas webpage.


(Updated 5/26/2020)

Governor Greg Abbott today issued a proclamation expanding additional services and activities that can open under Phase II of the state's plan to safely and strategically open. With this proclamation, water parks, recreational sport programs for adults, driver education programs, and food-court dining areas within shopping malls can begin operations with limited occupancy or regulations to protect the health and safety of Texans.

Beginning Friday, May 29th, water parks can open but must limit their occupancy to 25% of normal operating limits. Components of these water parks that have video arcades must remain closed. Starting Sunday, May 31st, recreational sports programs for adults can resume, but games and similar competitions may not begin until June 15th. Driver education programs can resume operations immediately.

Food-court dining areas within shopping malls can also immediately resume operations, but malls are encouraged to designate one or more individuals who are responsible for ensuring health and safety practices are followed, including: limiting tables to six individuals; maintaining a six-feet distance between individuals sitting at different tables; cleaning and disinfecting tables between uses; and ensuring no condiments or other items are left on tables between customer uses.

Minimum standard health protocols outlined by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) are recommended and located on the Open Texas webpage.

View the Governor's proclamation.


(Updated 5/18/2020)

Governor Greg Abbott today announced the second phase of the State of Texas' ongoing plan to safely and strategically open Texas while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase II, restaurants may increase their occupancy to 50% and additional services and activities that remained closed under Phase I may open with restricted occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

Additionally, the Governor announced that public schools in Texas have the option to provide in-person summer school so long as they follow social distancing practices and health protocols laid out by DSHS. These classes may begin as soon as June 1st.

Via Executive Order, the following services and activities may open under Phase II.

  • Child Care Centers (May 18)
  • Massage and Personal-Care Centers (May 18)
  • Youth Clubs (May 18)
  • Rodeo and Equestrian Events (May 22)
  • Bowling Alleys, Bingo Halls, Simulcast Racing, and Skating Rinks (May 22)
  • Bars (May 22)
  • Aquariums and Natural Caverns (May 22)
  • Zoos (May 29)
  • Day Youth Camps (May 31)
  • Overnight Youth Camps (May 31)
  • Youth Sports (May 31)
  • Certain professional sports without in-person spectators (May 31)

All sporting and camp activities are required to adhere by special safety standards, and minimum standard health protocols have been established for all newly-announced opened services and activities. Businesses located in office buildings may also open but must limit their occupancy to the greater of 10 employees or 25% of their workforce.

Additionally, restaurants may expand their occupancy to 50% beginning May 22. Bars—including wine tasting rooms, craft breweries, and similar businesses—may open at 25% occupancy but like restaurants, these occupancy limits do not apply to outdoor areas that maintain safe distancing among parties.

Opened services and activities under Phase II are subject to certain occupancy limits and health and safety protocols. For details and a full list of guidelines, openings, and relevant dates, visit www.gov.texas.gov/opentexas.

Certain counties experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases will have their beginning date of Phase II delayed until May 29. These counties include El Paso, Randall, Potter, Moore, and Deaf Smith. Surge Response Teams are actively working in these areas to increase testing, maintain hospital capacity, and ensure that COVID-19 is contained and mitigated.

During his remarks, the Governor also presented information on the state's hospitalization and positivity rates—two metrics the Governor and his team of medical experts have used to inform the state's ongoing plan to safely and strategically open. Details on these metrics can be found in presentation slides, Hospitalizations Chart and Positivity Rate Chart.

(Updated 5/5/2020)

On Wednesday, May 5, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference where he announced that he will be issuing an Executive Order to expand openings of certain businesses and activities.

The Governor was joined for the press conference by Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) Chief Nim Kidd, Texas Health and Human Services (HHSC) Acting Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson, TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, and Adjutant General of Texas Maj. Gen. Tracey Norris. These newly opened services are subject to recommended minimum standard health protocols outlined by DSHS. These protocols will be available on the Open Texas webpage.

Wedding venues and services

Weddings held indoors other than at a church, congregation, or house of worship must limit occupancy to 25%. Wedding reception services may also resume, but facilities must limit their occupancy to 25% of the total listed occupancy. These occupancy limits do not apply to outdoor wedding receptions.

Cosmetology Services

Beginning May 8, cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons and shops, and other establishments where licensed cosmetologists or barbers practice their trade may open, but all such salons, shops, and establishments must ensure at least six feet of social distancing between operating work stations. Tanning salons may also reopen under the same limitation.

Swimming Pools

Beginning May 8, swimming pools may open subject to certain limitations, including on their occupancy or operating levels.

Office Buildings

Beginning May 18, office buildings may open with the greater of five or fewer individuals or 25% of the total office workforce. These individuals must maintain appropriate social distancing.

Gyms

Gyms, exercise facilities, and exercise classes may also open on May 18, but must operate at 25% occupancy. Locker rooms and shower facilities will remain closed, but restrooms may open.

Manufacturing

Non-essential manufacturing services may also open on May 18, but facilities must limit their occupancy to 25%.

Graduation Ceremonies

TEA Commissioner Morath also provided new guidance on class of 2020 graduation ceremonies for Texas school districts. The TEA is providing four different pathways for schools to celebrate their graduating seniors, and each district is at liberty to determine if any of these options best serve the needs and desires of their community:

  • Completely virtual ceremonies that take place entirely online, with the use of video-conference or other technologies.
  • Hybrid ceremonies, which consist of a compilation of videos of students being recognized in person as they celebrate graduation in small groups.
  • Vehicle ceremonies, in which students and their families wait in their cars while other graduates are recognized one at time with their families alongside them.
  • Outdoor in-person ceremonies, which are currently permitted for counties as follows:
    • Between May 15 and May 31, an outdoor ceremony may take place in a rural county that has an attestation as described in the Governor’s Report to Open Texas that remains in effect 7 days prior to the ceremony.
    • An outdoor ceremony may take place in any Texas county on or after June 1.

(Updated 4/27/2020)

Gov. Abbott today issued the first phase of the plan to reopen the Texas economy.

For counties with more than five confirmed cases of COVID-19, the following parts of the Executive Order apply beginning on Friday, May 1:

Retail

Retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls are permitted to reopen. These services must limit their capacity to 25% of their listed occupancy. Within shopping malls, the food-court dining areas, play areas, and interactive displays and settings must remain closed.

Museums & libraries

All museums and libraries may open under the same 25% occupancy limitation, but interactive areas of museums must remain closed. State libraries and museums will open by, and local public museums and libraries may reopen only if permitted by the local government.

Single-person offices

Single-person offices may reopen on Friday, May 1.

Places of worship

Churches and places of worship remain open.

Outdoor sports

Outdoor sports are allowed to resume so long as no more than four participants are playing together at one time. Certain social distancing practices must also be followed.

Local government operations

Local government operations, including county and municipal government operations relating to permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, may reopen as determined by the local government.

What remains closed

Public swimming pools, bars, gyms, cosmetology salons, massage establishments, interactive amusement venues, such as bowling alleys and video arcades, and tattoo and piercing studios will remain closed through Phase I. Nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities must remain closed to visitors unless to provide critical assistance.

Recommendations

The plan also recommends the following:

  • Stay home if you can.
  • Wash hands often and for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue away.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Disinfect surfaces, buttons, handles, doorknobs, and other places touched often.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Continue to practice social distancing, avoid crowds, and limit physical contact.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends using simple cloth face coverings in public to help slow the spread of the virus.

Read the plan

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(Updated 4/17/2020)

Gov. Greg Abbott today issued Executive Orders to begin the process of reopening the state of Texas.

The Executive Orders enable the following:

  • State parks will reopen on April 20, with guidelines in place to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
  • Beginning April 24, retail outlets in Texas will be able to reopen under a temporary "Retail-To-Go" model in which retail establishments must deliver items to customer's cars, homes, or other locations to minimize contact.
  • All Texas 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.
  • From April 21 through May 8, all licensed health care professionals and facilities must continue to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary to diagnose or correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient. Exceptions include procedures that would not deplete hospital capacity or PPE needed to cope with COVID-19.

Read more

These Executive Orders follow the March 31st Executive Order that allows “exceptions for essential activities and services based on the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. Examples of these essential services include healthcare, grocery stores, banking and financial services, utilities, child care for essential service employees, and government services.”

View CISA guidelines

As leaders of the Texas business community, we applaud Gov. Abbott for focusing on the incremental steps necessary to reopen the Texas economy. We recognize this effort will need to balance public health considerations while restarting economic activity in a phased and gradual approach that guards against subsequent spikes in infections.

We especially look forward to working with many of the Austin region's own who have been appointed to the Governor's Strike Force to Open Texas, including, former Austin Chamber board chair Sen. Kirk Watson, Michael Dell, Kendra Scott, Robert Smith and Adriana Cruz. We're delighted former Austin Chamber board member James Huffines is leading this strike force. The work and insight these community and business leaders will provide is paramount to getting our region back to work.

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