What you need to know about reopening the state of Texas

Posted on 05/26/2020 by Austin Chamber of Commerce

(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

--

(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.

Read more



Related Categories: COVID-19 resources, For businesses, For individuals, For the community, Advocacy