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Capitol Newsletter – May 1, 2020

On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott outlined the state’s plan for reopening the economy in the wake of COVID-19 response measures. In making the announcement, the Governor stated, “It’s time to set a new course… that responsibly opens up business in Texas.” Governor Abbott outlined steps to begin a three-phase reopening of the state’s economy.

  1. Phase I begins today, Friday, May 1st and will allow a wide range of businesses to open at reduced (25 percent) capacity. 
  2. After two weeks of evaluating data, Phase II may begin as early as May 18th, which will increase allowable capacity to 50 percent.  

Businesses and activities to resume as of Friday:

  • Businesses that can open under the new Executive Order include: All retail stores, restaurants, malls, movie theaters, museums and libraries;
  • Sole proprietor businesses can reopen;
  • All licensed healthcare professionals can return to work with few restrictions;
  • Churches and places pf worship can expand their current allowable capacity, with continued distancing measures advised; and
  • Outdoor sports of no more than four participants In proximate Interaction will be allowed.

Though the Governor’s order allows a return to business, it  does not require  businesses or business owners to do so. Enforcement measures will primarily be done at the local or regulatory level. If a business is found to violate capacity restrictions, it will be subject to lose its license to operate. Additional enforcement measures include penalties of up to $1,000 and 180 days in jail. The Governor’s order supersedes all local ordinances.

DSHS has recommended minimum standard health protocols for all  individuals , all  employers and employees , as well as industry-specific protocols for  retailers ,  retail customers ,  restaurants , restaurant patrons ,  movie theaters ,  movie theater customers ,  museums and libraries ,  museum and library visitors ,  outdoor sports participants ,  single-person offices,  and  low COVID-19 counties . These protocols are outlined in the Open Texas Checklists within the  Governor’s report  beginning on page 20. 

Essential services such as farmers and ranchers, grocery and drug stores, banks, and gas stations will continue to operate. 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.

In two other executive orders, Governor Abbott relaxed certain restrictions related to health care professionals and issued amended requirements related to hospital capacity; and eliminated the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for individuals traveling from Louisiana. You can view all three executive orders from this week online at: https://gov.texas.gov/news

Lastly, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) issued new guidance to unemployment claimants concerning their eligibility for unemployment benefits should they choose not to return to work at this time due to COVID-19. Under this guidance, Texans can continue to receive unemployment benefits throughout the COVID-19 response if they choose not to return to work for certain reasons as specified by TWC.
Reason for refusal:

  • At High Risk: People 65 years or older are at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.
  • Household member at high risk: People 65 years or older are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
  • Diagnosed with COVID: The individual has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered.
  • Family member with COVID: Anybody in the household has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered and 14 days have not yet passed.
  • Quarantined: Individual is currently in 14-day quarantine due to close contact exposure to COVID-19.
  • Child care: Child’s school or daycare closed and no alternatives are available.

Sincerely,

Weekly Newsletter – May 1, 2020

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