The protocols allow exceptions for essential activities and services based on the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. Essential services include healthcare, grocery stores, banking and financial services, utilities, child care for essential service employees and government services. The focus of the order is to highlight social distancing guidelines and extend their implementation at least until April 30.
The order does not stop Texans from accessing essential services or engaging in essential daily activities, like going to the grocery store or gas station, providing or obtaining other essential services, hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling. Anyone engaging in the listed activities should take necessary precautions to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Exemptions for religious services conducted in churches, congregations and houses of worship were also included. All critical infrastructure will remain operational, and government entities and businesses will remain open.
“Social distancing is our best tool in the fight against COVID-19, and the actions we have taken thus far have proven to be effective in limiting the spread of this virus,” Abbott said. “Now it is time to redouble our efforts to reduce further exposure as much as possible and flatten the curve.”
The order maintains that the public should minimize social gatherings and minimize contact with people who are not in the same household, in addition to rules of avoiding eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts and visiting gyms or massage establishments. The order was expanded to include tattoo studios, piercing studios and cosmetology salons.
Visitors are still prohibited at nursing homes aside from nursing staff, though most residences have options for communications available locally. This includes long-term care facilities and assisted living facilities. Schools will remain closed to in-person attendance through May 4 of this year.
The Texas Department of Emergency Management will maintain an online list of essential services specified at www.tdem.texas.gov/essentialservices/. Other essential services will be added as approved. The order will remain in effect until midnight of April 30.