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
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
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.
-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.
-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 http://open.texas.gov.
Reminders for those going out:
-Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face
-People should not be in groups greater than ten when
-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
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
-Amusement Park Operators
-Amusement Park Visitors
-Fine Arts Performance Halls
-Fine Arts Performance Hall Patrons
-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 www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus, 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
-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
-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
-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
‘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
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
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.