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Sep 18

September 18, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #123

Posted on September 18, 2020 at 11:02 AM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


Can you explain the governor’s new main order in more detail?


You bet. The new “main” order, GA-30, supersedes GA-28. Relative to previous orders, the new order does the following of most significance to city residents: (1) keeps bars closed; (2) increases maximum restaurant occupancy from 50 percent to 75 percent; and (3) limits outdoor gatherings to 10 persons (other than those expressly allowed by the order – see below), unless the mayor authorizes more.


Getting into specifics, the new order retains the core features of the previous order:


-“Except as provided in this executive order or in the minimum standard health protocols recommended by DSHS, found at, people should not be in groups larger than ten and should maintain six feet of social distancing from those not in their group.”


-“In providing or obtaining services, every person (including individuals, businesses, and other legal entities) should use good-faith efforts and available resources to follow the minimum standard health protocols recommended by DSHS.”


-“Nothing in this executive order or the DSHS minimum standards precludes requiring a customer to follow additional hygiene measures when obtaining services.”


Beyond those, the order allows people to access various businesses and take part in various activities, but prohibits people from visiting bars. It has the following restriction: “Every business establishment in Texas shall operate at no more than 50 percent of the total listed occupancy of the establishment…” But it then exempts various businesses, activities, and outdoor events from the restriction:


“For any outdoor gathering in excess of 10 people, other than those set forth above in paragraph numbers 1, 2, 3 or 5, the gathering is prohibited unless the mayor of the city in which the gathering is held, or the county judge in the case of a gathering in an unincorporated area, approves of the gathering, and such approval can be made subject to certain conditions or restrictions not inconsistent with this executive order.” 


The exemptions in GA-30’s paragraph numbers 1, 2, 3, or 5 are many. Pursuant to GA-30 #1, a county judge or mayor has no express authority over the following outdoor gatherings:


1. any services listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 4.0 or any subsequent version;

2. religious services, including those conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship;

3. child care services;

4. youth camps, including but not limited to those defined as such under Chapter 141 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, and including all summer camps and other daytime and overnight camps for youths;

5. recreational sports programs for youths and adults.

6. any public or private schools, and any public or private institutions of higher education, not already covered above; and

7. drive-in concerts, movies, or similar events, under guidelines that facilitate appropriate social distancing, that generally require spectators to remain in their vehicles, and that minimize in-person contact between people who are not in the same household or vehicle.  (How exactly does one “generally” remain in one’s car? Oh wait, this is Texas!! Back the truck in and lay down in that “eight-foot bed that never has to be made!” Sadly, when confirming the source of those lyrics online, we found out that the “Pickup Man,” Joe Diffie, passed away in March from complications related to COVID-19.)  


In other words, the above events can take place by right with no occupancy limits. 


Pursuant to GA-30 #2, the following types of business establishments may operate at up to 75 percent of the total listed occupancy of the establishment, except for those establishments in areas with high hospitalizations as listed here:


1. in-store, non-CISA retail establishments;

2. dine-in restaurants, defined as “[o]nly restaurants that have less than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages, and whose customers eat or drink only while seated, may offer dine-in services.”

3. non-CISA office buildings;

4. non-CISA manufacturers;

5. museums and libraries; and

6. gyms and exercise facilities and classes.


Pursuant to GA-30 #3 (which cross-references back to GA-28 #2) regarding outdoor gatherings, the order is confusing. After much internal debate, the bottom line as interpreted by League attorneys is this:


1. Any outdoor gathering in the city limits in excess of 10 people is prohibited by the order (GA-30 #6), unless a mayor allows it. 

2. A mayor may allow a gathering in excess of 10 people in the city limits, and may impose allowable conditions on the gathering (other than penalties for individuals who don’t wear a mask)(GA-30 #6). The best way to do that would probably be a written proclamation. 

3. The order’s 50 percent occupancy limit does not apply to outdoor events, except those expressly listed in number 4 below (GA-30 #3).

4. A mayor has no control over the following, which can operate at a maximum of 50 percent of the normal operating limits as determined by the owner: (a) professional, collegiate, or similar sporting events; (b) swimming pools; (c) water parks; (d) museums and libraries; (e) zoos, aquariums, natural caverns, and similar facilities; and (f) rodeos and equestrian events (GA-30 #3 referencing GA-28 #2).

5. Amusement parks shall operate at no more than 50 percent of the normal operating limits as determined by the owner (GA-30 #5).


Also, the following establishments that operate with at least six feet of social distancing between work stations have no occupancy limits:


1. cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons/shops, and other establishments where licensed cosmetologists or barbers practice their trade;

2. massage establishments and other facilities where licensed massage therapists or other persons licensed or otherwise authorized to practice under Chapter 455 of the Texas Occupations Code practice their trade; and

3. other personal-care and beauty services such as tanning salons, tattoo studios, piercing studios, hair removal services, and hair loss treatment and growth services (GA-30 #4).


What remains expressly closed?


1. Bars or similar establishments that hold a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission; and

2. Commercial rafting or tubing services, including rental of rafts or tubes and transportation of people for the purpose of rafting or tubing.


Interested city officials should review the complicated new order in its entirety to determine what’s open and with what restrictions. As before, the best way for a city official to determine what’s open and which guidelines apply is to visit the governor’s Open Texas web page. That page indicates which activities are now allowed according to the guidance document linked for each type of business or activity.


Finally, GA-30 provides that “[a]ll existing state executive orders relating to COVID-19 are amended to eliminate confinement in jail as an available penalty for violating the executive orders.”


Further Updates


Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?


TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here