IssuesStatewide NewsGov. Abbott Issues Order Limiting Social Gatherings, Ending Dine-In at Restaurants, Closing Schools

Gov. Abbott announced a new executive order to help contain COVID-19 that limits social gatherings to fewer than 10 people, ends dine-in at restaurants, and closes school districts across the state.
and March 19, 2020
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Earlier today, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt declared a public health disaster in the state of Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott stated that the last time such a declaration had been issued in the state was in 1901.

Abbott issued an executive order to provide the following:

  1. Every person in Texas shall avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10.
  2. People shall avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms…provided however, that the use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options is allowed throughout the limited duration of this executive order.
  3. People shall not visit nursing homes or retirement centers or long-term care facilities, unless to provide critical assistance.
  4. All schools in the state of Texas shall be temporarily closed….the superintendent should continue to work with the Texas Education Agency to continue online or additional education.

Gov. Abbott’s executive order is effective beginning at midnight on Friday, March 20 and continues through midnight on Friday, April 3, but may be extended on that depending on the status of the Wuhan Virus in Texas.

Under the declaration made by Hellerstedt, Gov. Abbott said that the “state now has quarantine authority.”

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“We don’t want to exercise that authority right now, because we want to depend upon the responsibility all Texans will show. If Texans are irresponsible in their behavior, though, there are more tools where we can be more aggressive, only if needed,” said the governor. 

Gov. Abbott announced earlier this week the opening of two drive-through testing facilities in the Austin-area following the success of an initial drive-through facility in San Antonio.

With plans to open additional drive-through facilities in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and other parts of San Antonio, Gov. Abbott says that testing capacity is expected to exceed 10,000 by the end of the week.

This capacity represents a notable increase from the 220 individuals Abbott said had been tested in public health labs last week.

Since declaring a State of Disaster for all Texas counties last Friday, Gov. Abbott has undertaken a number of key deregulatory actions, including:

  • Fast-tracking temporary licensing for physicians and medical professionals not from Texas to assist with both in-person and telemedicine services;
  • Distributing medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile;
  • Waiving trucking regulations to more readily allow the restocking of supplies to grocery stores and other retailers;
  • Waiving regulations so that students in work-study programs continue to receive necessary funding;
  • Waiving STAAR testing requirements for the school year.
  • Creation of Texas Students MealFinder Map in a joint effort with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and local education agencies to help Texas parents locate facilities serving meals in their communities.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Texas currently has 143 confirmed cases with 4 reported deaths. 

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Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.