View All Posts

Apr 27

April 27, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #31

Posted on April 27, 2020 at 6:17 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


What did the governor announce today with regard to re-opening the Texas economy?


At a press conference this afternoon (April 27), the governor announced that he will allow his existing order GA-16 to expire on April 30. He plans to “set a new course,” based on “data and doctors,” that will allow as many businesses to re-open as possible so long as we can contain the spread. To that end, he issued three new executive orders:


EXECUTIVE ORDER GA-18: Keeps stay home/work home in place, except to access essential or re-opening services while following appropriate guidelines. It continues the order that retail services may be provided through pickup, delivery by mail, or delivery to the customer’s doorstep.


In addition, starting on Friday, May 1, 2020, it opens up the following: 


a. In-store retail services, for retail establishments that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the retail establishment.


b. Dine-in restaurant services, for restaurants that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the restaurant; provided, however, that: (a) this applies only to restaurants that have less than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages and are therefore not required to post the 51 percent sign required by Texas law as determined by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission; and (b) valet services are prohibited except for vehicles with placards or plates for disabled parking.


c. Movie theaters that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of any individual theater for any screening.


d. Shopping malls that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the shopping mall; provided, however, that within shopping malls, the food-court dining areas, play areas, and interactive displays and settings must remain closed.


e. Museums and libraries that operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy; provided, however, that: (a) local public museums and local public libraries may so operate only if permitted by the local government; and (b) any components of museums or libraries that have interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas, must remain closed.


f. For Texas counties that have filed with DSHS, and are in compliance with, the requisite attestation form promulgated by DSHS regarding five or fewer cases of COVID- 19, those in-store retail services, dine-in restaurant services, movie theaters, shopping malls, and museums and libraries, as otherwise defined and limited above, may operate at up to 50 percent (as opposed to 25 percent) of the total listed occupancy.


g. Services provided by an individual working alone in an office.


h. Golf course operations.


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


j. Such additional services as may be enumerated by future executive orders or proclamations by the governor.


The conditions and limitations set forth above for reopened services shall not apply to essential services, and the governor can impose more stringent requirements on a county if he chooses.


In addition, the order covers the following:


-Religious services should be conducted in accordance with the joint guidance issued and updated by the attorney general and governor. (Today (April 27), the attorney general issued updated guidance on houses of worship.) 


-People shall avoid visiting bars, gyms, public swimming pools, interactive amusement venues such as bowling alleys and video arcades, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, or cosmetology salons. The use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options for food and drinks remains allowed and highly encouraged.


-The executive order does not prohibit people from accessing essential or reopened services or engaging in essential daily activities, such as going to the grocery store or gas station, providing or obtaining other essential or reopened services, visiting parks, hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activity like jogging, bicycling, or other outdoor sports, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.


-In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall not visit nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance as determined through guidance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities should follow infection control policies and practices set forth by the HHSC, including minimizing the movement of staff between facilities whenever possible.


-In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, schools shall remain temporarily closed to in-person classroom attendance by students and shall not recommence before the end of the 2019-2020 school year.


EXECUTIVE ORDER GA-19: Applies standards to health care workers and facilities.


EXECUTIVE ORDER GA-20: Modifies the previous orders relating to restricted travel into the state.


Does Executive Order GA-18 supersede local orders?


Yes, at least partially. The order contains superseding language similar to previous ones:


“This executive order shall supersede any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster, but only to the extent that such a local order restricts essential services or reopened services allowed by this executive order, allows gatherings prohibited by this executive order, or expands the list of essential services or the list or scope of reopened services as set forth in this executive order. I hereby suspend Sections 418.1015(b) and 418.108 of the Texas Government Code, Chapter 81, Subchapter E of the Texas Health and Safety Code, and any other relevant statutes, to the extent necessary to ensure that local officials do not impose restrictions inconsistent with this executive order, provided that local officials may enforce this executive order as well as local restrictions that are consistent with this executive order.”


When asked at the press conference about masks, the governor stated that his order “supersedes local orders with regard to any type of fine or penalty for those not wearing a mask.” Of course, that issue is being litigated right now in Harris County.


Did the governor’s office provide additional guidance on the implementation of Executive Order GA-18?


Yes. His new plan to re-open certain aspects of society is based on a book titled “Texans Helping Texans.” The book provides first and foremost that:


“As we begin to open Texas, we must continue to follow these critical health guidelines:


-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.” 


Other highlights of the book’s recommendations include:


-Everyone should review minimum health protocols (Page 19): Individuals, employers, employees, and customers are encouraged to review, print out, and follow the MINIMUM health protocols recommended by DSHS in the checklists on the following pages, in addition to federal and state employment laws and workplace safety standards. The DSHS minimum recommended health protocols are subject to change based on new and evolving information.


The book contains protocol checklists for: individuals (Page 20), employers (Page 21), retailers (Page 23), retail customers (Page 26), restaurants (Page 27), restaurant customers (Page 30), movie theatres (Page 31), movie theatre customers (Page 34), museums and libraries (Page 25), museum and library visitors (Page 37), outdoor sports participants (Page 38), churches/places of worship (Page 39), and single-person offices (Page 42).


Are rural counties with fewer than five confirmed virus cases treated differently under Executive Order GA-18?


Yes, as indicated by section (f) of GA-18, listed in the first question above, counties that have had fewer than five confirmed cases can expand the percentage of occupancy in the listed re-opened businesses.


Rural Counties with few cases (Page 43): Rural counties may, on an individualized basis, increase capacity for restaurants, retail, shopping malls, museums, libraries, and/or movie theaters if the county judge certifies and affirms to DSHS that certain listed standards have been investigated and confirmed to be met. 


(Editor’s note: This allows rural counties to expand from 25 percent to 50 percent occupancy if the conditions are met, but they must revert if other conditions are met (e.g. a spike in infections) or if the governor orders it so.)


What are some other highlights of the Texans Helping Texans book?


Other highlights in the book include (with verbatim descriptions from the book’s text as explanation):


-Older Texans mitigation plan (Page 9): Recent reports highlight the rapid increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases in nursing homes and assisted living communities in Texas. According to the governor, “the most important thing is protecting our most vulnerable, so we ask that those ages 65 and older remain at home if at all possible, and that businesses should make special practices to protect them. We will also re-double efforts to protect seniors in nursing homes.”


-Testing efforts (Page 12): Testing is the foundation on which the plan to open Texas is built. Testing can identify critical hotspots, catch outbreaks before they spread, and indicate where support is needed most. 


-Texas actions to increase testing (Page 13): The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), the Governor’s Supply Chain Strike Force, and Texas Military Department are working on several fronts to continuously expand access to COVID-19 testing throughout the state.


-Statewide contact tracing (Page 16): As Texas opens and individuals return to work, it is imperative that public health authorities identify not only those who are ill with COVID-19 but also those individuals who have come in contact with a person who is ill. This contact tracing allows public health authorities to identify individuals who are also ill and who may not realize their symptoms are COVID-19 related, and others who are not symptomatic but need to be educated on how to monitor for symptoms and isolate if symptoms occur. Testing identifies individuals who need to isolate. Contact tracing is a core function of public health. Coordination between state and local public health officials is fundamental to contact tracing success. This ongoing pattern will box in the disease and will slow and can even stop further spread.


What did the governor say at the press conference regarding enforcement?


He said, “there are several levels of enforcement…up to $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail…but primary enforcement would be at local level or regulatory level (such as repealing a state business license).”


Did the governor mention anything else of major interest at the press conference that isn’t covered by the questions above?


Yes. He mentioned that:


-Permission: The re-opening guidelines are “permission, not a requirement.” Any Texan can stay home.

-City libraries: Whether to open is up to the local government.

-Outdoor sports: Include golf and tennis.

-Personal hygiene: Barbershops, hair salons, and gyms, he hopes that they open by mid-May.

-Summer camps: His medical team is still working on safe ways for kids to attend camps.


Has another request for an attorney general opinion related to local government emergency authority been submitted?


Yes. Representative Dade Phelan (R – Beaumont) requested an opinion as to “Whether a local governmental entity under an emergency declaration has the authority to prevent an owner of a second home from occupying that property or limiting occupancy of housing based on length of the occupancy’s term.” The League will report on the opinion when it is released.


What is going on in the Texas Senate in relation to the Coronavirus?


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that he has established six Senate working groups to discuss challenges the state will face in the next legislative session as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Further Updates


How might the property tax appraisal and appeal process be impacted by social distancing requirements?


On April 24, the attorney general received an opinion request from Representative Mayes Middleton regarding the proper procedures that appraisal districts and appraisal review boards must follow in light of the coronavirus pandemic.


The request contains several questions covering different facets of the appraisal process, including questions related to the technological capabilities of appraisal districts and appraisal district notice requirements.


It concludes with a final question about how property values might be impacted for the 2020 tax year: “If the statutory and Constitutional requirements of the property tax protest process are not followed for tax year 2020, noticed values and thereby taxpayer rights to due process protections are denied, must the county appraisal districts then default to the most recent tax year, 2019, in which statutory and due process requirements were met?”


The League will report when the opinion is issued.


Have cities developed new resident assistance programs in response to Coronavirus?


Yes. For example, the City of San Antonio has created a $25 million assistance program for residents impacted by COVID-19.


Funds will help residents struggling with rent and mortgage payments. As an added benefit, those who receive assistance for rent and mortgage will also receive assistance for utilities, groceries, medicine, and fuel. Direct cash assistance is available for groceries, medicine, and fuel through a partnership between the City and the Family Independence Initiative.


Other funding for the program comes from a variety of sources, including the City’s FY 2020 affordable housing budget’s risk mitigation fund, affordable housing fund, HUD community development block grant (CDBG) program, and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act CDBG funds. The remaining money has been requested from the San Antonio Housing Trust Foundation and the San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facilities Corporation.


Additional funding comes from the parking enterprise fund, various tax increment reinvestment zones, San Antonio Housing Trust Public Facility Corporation funds, the San Antonio Housing Trust Finance Corporation, and funds from the COVID-19 emergency housing assistance program.


These funding sources will provide a total $25 Million for the COVID-19 Emergency Housing Assistance Program.


To learn more about the program, visit the City’s main Coronavirus web page. For housing assistance information, go to


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


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