The statewide order goes into effect on Thursday and will last through April 30.
“Essential” activities are defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, but requests for additions to the list can be made to the state here.
In addition to the businesses and activities listed by DHS, the state is also allowing “religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship.”
However, the order stipulates that if religious services cannot be conducted remotely, “they should be conducted consistent with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, and by implementing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
While the order allows for activities such as grocery shopping and outdoor exercise, so long as precautions to reduce the virus transmission of the virus are taken, other things are specifically prohibited.
Bars, restaurants, and food courts will all be closed for dine-in purposes, though drive-thru, delivery, or pick-up options will remain available and encouraged.
Gyms, massage establishments, tattoo and piercing studios, and cosmetology salons will all be closed under the order.
Visits to nursing homes will also be prohibited for the duration of the order, except to provide “critical assistance as determined through guidance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.”
Schools will remain closed for in-person instruction until May 4, 2020.
All orders from local jurisdictions can expound on the governor’s order, but must be consistent with it.
Jurisdictions cannot restrict essential services allowed under the executive order (e.g. religious services, gun stores, etc.), nor can they allow gatherings prohibited by the order (e.g. restaurant dining areas).
All law enforcement officers will be able to enforce the new order. Violators may be penalized with fines or jail time.
Abbott said that his order is not a “shelter-in-place” order or a “stay-at-home” order, since Texans are technically allowed to leave their homes for essential activities.
The governor also said that limiting the spread of the virus in Texas has been successful so far, but that Texans needed to continue their social-distancing efforts to keep it under control.
As of the press conference, 42,992 tests had been conducted in the state with 3,266 positive results and 122 counties having at least 1 positive case. Only 2.4 percent of the available beds for COVID-19 patients are occupied.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.