As the coronavirus pandemic escalated, and with it responses from federal, state, and local leaders, Governor Abbott began temporarily voiding a myriad of regulations in order to try and aid the healthcare industry, essential businesses, and even Texas students.
Here’s a look at what’s been waived since the governor declared a state of disaster on March 13th.
March 13th — The governor held a press conference at the capitol during which he declared a State of Disaster for all Texas counties.
March 14th — Abbott waived certain state trucking regulations in an attempt to ensure supplies are delivered and transported quickly and efficiently. He specifically waived three statutes, relating to the allowed weight and size of shipments, vehicle registration, and temporary registration permits.
On the same day, the governor directed the Texas Medical Board and the Texas Board of Nursing to fast-track the issuance of temporary licenses for “out-of-state physicians, physician assistants, certain retired physicians, nurses, and other license types to assist in Texas’ response to COVID-19.”
March 15 – Abbott waived state laws to allow trucks that transport goods for the alcohol industry to make deliveries for grocery stores.
It was also ensured that college students enrolled in work-study programs funded by the government will continue to receive that funding and opportunity during this state of emergency.
March 16 — Abbott waived State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) testing requirements for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic school year.
At the request of Attorney General Ken Paxton, Abbott also allowed for the public to watch and participate in “virtual and telephonic open meetings to maintain government transparency.”
Certain parking permit or vehicle registration requirements were also temporarily suspended so that “Texans can avoid unnecessary crowds and in-person contact without fear of being penalized.”
March 17 — Some telemedicine requirements were waived, allowing doctors in Texas to treat their patients remotely while being eligible to be paid by insurance companies at the same rate as they would if they were practicing in person.
March 18 — Expiration dates for drivers licenses were temporarily waived, including commercial drivers licenses. On the same day, the governor announced that driver license offices were temporarily closed. This exemption will end 60 days after DPS offices resume their operations.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission was also directed to allow for alcoholic beverages to be delivered or taken to-go, and for businesses to repurchase or sell back unopened alcoholic beverages.
March 20 — In an effort to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in Texas prisons, the governor mandated that inmates would temporarily not have to pay for healthcare services related to coronavirus.
Event permit refunds were allowed in light of festivals and events having to be unilaterally canceled across the state.
Pharmacists were given the autonomy to perform consultations over the phone.
March 21 — A new batch of nursing-related exemptions were made, including allowing graduate nurses a permit extension if they haven’t been licensed, nursing school students in their final year to meet their clinical requirements sooner, and retired or inactive nurses the chance to reactivate their licenses.
March 24 — Restaurants were allowed to resell retail products they may have purchased in bulk directly to consumers, giving the option for “distributors and restaurants to provide Texans another source of food outside of grocery stores and prepared food from restaurants.”
March 25 — In an effort to expand hospital capacity, the governor waived licensing requirements for recently closed or soon to be opened healthcare facilities that, Abbott said, “are otherwise ideal locations to aid in our COVID-19 response.”
The governor also issued a 6-month grace period for nurses with expired licenses and waived penalty fees.
March 27 — Regulations involving the Texas Workforce Commission’s (TWC) ability to provide childcare were waived to ensure that “TWC will be able to better respond to the child care needs of our front line workers in Texas,” said Governor Abbott.
March 28 — License deadlines for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy technician trainees were temporarily extended, and continuing education requirements were suspended.
Licensing barriers, like continuing education or fees, were removed for qualifying inactive Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN), allowing for a quicker re-entry into the healthcare field.
March 30 — The governor allowed for cost-sharing for public safety employees who “contract COVID-19 during the course of their employment,” ensuring their reimbursement for related medical expenses.
April 2 — Allowing for more Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers to enter the workforce, Abbott waived requirements to “permit individuals who are qualified, though not formally certified” to aid in emergency response.
He also waived certain requirements to make it easier for out-of-state EMS professionals to work in Texas, and suspended some testing for personnel already in the state.
April 5 — Aiming to expand Texas’ healthcare workforce, Abbott provided more flexibility to allow Medical Physicists, Physician Assistants (PA), Perfusionists, and Respiratory Care candidates for licensure to conditionally assist in coronavirus response using an emergency license.
Additionally, the waiver allows for more “flexibility between physicians and the PAs and Advance Practice Registered Nurses they supervise including allowing for oral prescriptive delegation agreements to enable rapid deployment of those practitioners during the emergency.”
April 7 — This waiver allowed end stage renal disease (ESRD) facilities more flexibility in order to enforce social distancing practices and prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The governor also specifically gave more flexibility to pharmacist technicians, including allowing them to fill prescriptions over the phone if the practice is approved by the pharmacist.
April 8 — Notary publics were given the ability to perform their work via videoconference, as long as certain precautions were taken.
April 9 — Expanding a previous waiver, Abbott stipulated that any “smart phone or any audio-visual, real-time, or two-way interactive communication system” could be used for telehealth treatment and consultation.
Additionally, more healthcare workers were deemed temporarily qualified to work in nursing home facilities without the complete certification that is typically required by the state.
April 11 — Physicians-in-training (PIT) were given the freedom to treat patients who would otherwise fall outside the purview of their Graduate Medical Education (GME) training programs should the need arise.
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McKenzie DiLullo serves as Senior Editor and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.