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Jun 03

June 3, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #56

Posted on June 3, 2020 at 6:20 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


Does the governor’s current executive order (GA-23) expire tonight? Is there a replacement?


Yes, Executive Order GA-23 expires at 11:59 p.m. tonight. It is replaced by Executive Order GA-26, which implements “Phase III” of the state’s re-opening. The order is much different than previous orders, and the press release accompanying its release states that:


“Governor Greg Abbott today announced the third phase of the State of Texas’ plan to safely open the economy while containing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase III, effective immediately, all businesses in Texas will be able to operate at up to 50% capacity, with very limited exceptions. Businesses that previously have been able to operate at 100% capacity may continue to do so, and most outdoor areas are not subject to capacity limits. All businesses and customers should continue to follow minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).


As with previous phases, the Phase III plan is based on the advice and support of the four doctors on the Strike Force to Open Texas medical team. Via Executive Order, Phase III begins immediately. A breakdown of Phase III can be found below.


‘The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe,’ said Governor Abbott. ‘As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants. Thanks to the effectiveness of our Surge Response Teams, we have the ability to contain those hot spots while opening up Texas for business. As we begin Phase III, I ask all Texans and Texas businesses to continue following the standard health protocols and to heed the guidance of our state and federal officials who continue to closely monitor COVID-19. If we remain vigilant, we will continue to mitigate the spread of this virus, protect public health, and get more Texans back to work and their daily activities.’


Between May 26th and June 2nd, over 45% of new cases came from jails or prisons, meat packing plants, and nursing homes. There are currently 1,487 Texans hospitalized due to COVID-19. There are 20,679 active cases in the state and 45,858 Texans are estimated to have recovered.


Effective June 3:


-All businesses currently operating at 25% capacity can expand their occupancy to 50% with certain exceptions. 

-Bars and similar establishments may increase their capacity to 50% as long as patrons are seated.

-Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with less than 1,000 confirmed positive cases may open at 50% capacity. 

-Restaurants may expand their maximum table size from 6 to 10 persons. 


Effective June 12:


-Restaurants may expand their occupancy levels to 75%. 

-Counties with 10 or less active COVID-19 cases may expand their occupancy limits to 75%. Counties that fit this category but have not previously filed an attestation with DSHS will need to do so.


Effective June 19:


-Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 may open at 50% capacity.


Additional Openings:


-Special provisions have been made for outdoor gatherings, such as Fourth of July celebrations, but it is imperative that local officials and public health officials collaborate on safe standards. These provisions are included in the Governor's Executive Order and are also available on the Open Texas web page.


Further Protocols:


-All businesses should continue to follow the minimum standard health protocols from DSHS. For details and a full list of guidelines, openings, and relevant dates, visit


Reminders for those going out:


-Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings.

-People should not be in groups greater than ten when possible.

-People over the age of 65 are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible.

-People are still asked to avoid nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities.”


What are the specifics of new Executive Order GA-26?


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 that the following new activities are now allowed according to the guidance document linked for each:


-Amusement Park Operators

-Amusement Park Visitors

-Fine Arts Performance Halls

-Fine Arts Performance Hall Patrons

-Media Production

-Outdoor Events

-Valet Parking

-Video Game Facilities


In addition, as mentioned in the governor’s press release above, the guidance for many previously re-opened “covered services” has been updated to allow up to 50 percent capacity.


Executive Order GA-26 is much different than previous orders. It provides that:


“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.”


With regard to obtaining services, which are no longer referred to as “covered services,” it provides that:


-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.

-Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings, but no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering.


What other provisions are included in the new order?


The order has other provisions that are similar to previous orders (they are paraphrased here):


-It supersedes local orders.

-Confinement in jail for a violation is not an option.

-Schools can operate for the remainder of the summer using Texas Education Agency protocols.

-People shall not visit nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities, with certain exceptions.

-It eliminates occupancy limits of any kind for, among other things: (1) religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship; (2) local government operations, including county and municipal governmental operations relating to licensing (including marriage licenses), permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, as determined by the local government [Editor’s note: This provision would appear to allow a city to continue or enact local occupancy limits for these services, if desired, that apparently trump state limits within the order]; (3) child-care services; (4) youth camps, and including all summer camps and other daytime and overnight camps for youths; and (5) recreational sports programs for youths and adults.


What about Fourth of July celebrations?


Of particular interest to many is the “outdoor events” category on the Open Texas web page, which allows for Fourth of July celebrations in a city. Gatherings of 500 or more require a mayor’s approval:


“Outdoor events, such as July 4 celebrations and other large outdoor gatherings with estimated attendance of 500 or more, are permissible to hold in Texas. The county judge or the mayor, as appropriate, in coordination with the local public health authority, may decide if a particular outdoor event should be modified or the occupancy further limited based on the facts and circumstances of the event and COVID-19 in the particular jurisdiction, based on the factors set forth below.”


The guidance further provides for the following “local approval factors:”


-Local approval for large outdoor gatherings (those with an estimated attendance exceeding 500 individuals) is appropriate in this instance because a statewide standard is unable to take into account the various factors needed to ensure such a gathering in varied locations is safe and will minimize the spread of COVID-19. Further, business parity is not an issue at large outdoor events.


-In evaluating large gatherings (those with an estimated attendance exceeding 500 individuals), the county judge or the mayor, as applicable, in consultation with the local public health authority, should consider the following factors:


1. The overall number of projected attendees;

2. The likelihood of individuals over the age of 65 attending;

3. The density of the forum and the ability to ensure social distancing of 6 feet between individuals; and

4. The level of transmission in the county.


-Gatherings of less than 500 individuals may proceed consistent with all the health protocols above without approval of the county judge, local health authority, or mayor, as applicable.


Has the Texas attorney general taken further action with regard to mail-in ballots?


Yes, he issued the following press release:


“Attorney General Ken Paxton today led a 16-state coalition that sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, warning that certain provisions in the proposed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) interfere with state elections by transforming them in a way that benefits vote harvesters and can lead to massive disenfranchisement of lawful, qualified voters. The HEROES Act, if passed, would invade states’ ability to set their own election laws and dramatically undermine election integrity. 


‘As federal and state legislators of both parties have correctly observed for decades, mail-in ballots are particularly vulnerable to fraud and protections against that risk are necessary. In contrast, the HEROES Act effectively bulldozes state election laws that were specifically designed to reduce and ultimately eliminate voter fraud,’ said Attorney General Paxton.?’State election officials have many options available to safely and securely hold elections without risking widespread mail-ballot fraud. The federal government should leave these decisions to states.’ 


The American Coronavirus/COVID-19 Election Safety and Security Act (ACCESS Act), which is buried within the HEROES Act, requires states to provide mail-in ballots for all registered voters, allows individuals to apply for a ballot online, and allows voters to register to vote as late as election day itself. The Act also unlawfully prohibits states from requiring identification, notarization, or witness signatures as conditions of providing an absentee ballot to a voter and creates an overly-elaborate process for states to reject an unlawful or illegitimate mail-in ballot. 


Texas was joined by Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Carolina, and South Dakota.”


The HEROES Act (HR 6800) is the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 26. It has been characterized as the House Democrats “opener for negotiations” in the Senate. The Act is a $3 trillion measure whose centerpiece is a $1 trillion proposal for direct aid to states and local government entities of all population sizes. However, it does contain provisions related to the conduct of elections, such as those beginning on page 1,473. The HEROES Act has not passed the Senate, and any future stimulus bill probably won’t look much like it.


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.