Governor Abbott tells Texans to stay home, essential activities and services only through April 30
By LYNETTE SOWELL
On Wednesday afternoon, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order which, in short, requires all Texans to stay home except for essential activities or those performing essential services.
The executive order includes keeping all Texas schools closed through May 4.
Gov. Abbott said the order doesn’t prohibit people from activities such as going to the grocery store or gas station, hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling, as long as in-person contact is minimized with people who are not in the same household.
The order exempts religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship, but social distancing practices are to be observed.
Excluded from essential services are places like cosmetology salons, gyms, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, as well as eating/drinking inside of bars, restaurants, and food courts. Accessing restaurants with drive-through or carryout service is allowed and encouraged.
Govt. Abbott stopped short in saying this was a “shelter in place” order.
“In short, what this provides is that Texans are expected to limit personal interactions that could lead to the spread of COVID-19, while also still having the freedom to conduct daily activities such as going to the grocery store, so long as you are following the presidential standard of good distance practices,” Abbott said
Abbott said that the previous restrictions and executive orders were not a “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home” order.
He said that shelter-in-place means “you need to take shelter immediately right there,” whether someone is in their home or on the roadside, in the event of a disaster like a tornado.
Because Texans may still leave home to access essential services, Abbott said describing the measure as a stay-at-home order is also not accurate.
“A stay-at-home strategy would mean that you have to stay at home, you cannot leave home under any circumstances. That obviously is not what we’ve articulated here,” Abbott said on Wednesday.
However, Abbott said the executive order “empowers any law enforcement officer in the state of Texas to enforce it. It’s enforceable by either a fine or jail up to 180 days.”
John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of Health Services, may also enforce quarantines as per his March 19 health disaster declaration, that “people who are known to have, or are under investigation or monitoring, for COVID-19, should adhere to the direction provided to them by duly authorized persons, including public health officials. Failure to abide by such direction may result in involuntary quarantine or isolation for the purposes of preventing further community spread of COVI D-19.”
Wednesday’s executive order was released at about the same time as Coryell Health in Gatesville announced that its first positive test for COVID-19 for a patient tested at that facility. That individual self-reported symptoms related to COVID-19 and was sent home while awaiting test results in self-isolation.
The patient’s county of residence, which is used by TDSHS when counting cases, was not released by the hospital, but Coryell County Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Harrell said the individual is a resident of Lampasas County. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice did report Wednesday on social media that a laundry supervisor at the Murray Unit in Gatesville tested positive for COVID-19, and the employee was tested by a physician on Monday, March 30, and remains in self-quarantine.
Coryell County has not been under a shelter in place order, nor has Copperas Cove, but both fall under the jurisdiction of the governor’s executive order to stay home except for essential activities and business.
Lampasas County judge Randy Hoyer had already issued an order for those county residents to shelter in place effective April 1 through April 7, with the city of Lampasas having already sheltered in place. Bell County is also under an order to shelter in place.
As of noon Thursday in the state of Texas, 4,669 cases have been reported, along with 70 fatalities from the virus. In the U.S. there are 213,144 cases and 4,513 fatalities.