Texas DSHS Releases Guidance for Employers, Employees, and Customers of Reopened Retail Services

Jackson Walker

Jackson Walker

– April 23, 2020

By Denise Rose & Kate Goodrich

In accordance with Governor Abbott’s April 17 executive order, DSHS has issued the following guidelines to assist retail employers, employees and customers in the process of re-opening businesses. More guidance is expected from the governor on April 27th. Please visit DSHS.Texas.gov/Coronavirus and JW.com/Coronavirus for continued updates.

– April 17, 2020

By Kate Goodrich

On Friday, April 17, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued several new executive orders aimed at beginning the process of reopening the state of Texas for business. Within the orders, a plan is laid out to revive certain activities and services that the governor characterized as posing a minimal threat of spreading COVID-19. The press release may be viewed here.

According to comments the governor made at a Friday afternoon press conference announcing the new orders, Texas must re-open in stages. The first round of openings, including those announced today, must be activities that pose minimal or no threat to the spread of COVID-19. The governor will announce further openings on Monday, April 27, with more openings planned to be announced in May, assuming statewide trends of reduction in new cases of Coronavirus continue.

In his first executive order of the day (GA-17), Governor Abbott established a strike force comprised of Texas government officials, medical experts, and business leaders who the Governor has charged with working together to try to reinvigorate the economy as safely as possible. James Huffines will lead the advisory strike force and Mike Toomey will serve as Chief Operating Officer, while Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Comptroller Glenn Hegar will serve as consulting members. In addition, Governor Abbott has appointed Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt as Chief Medical Officer of the strike force, along with three other medical professionals who Abbott has asked to develop a “medical architecture” that address COVID-19 related health concerns, including access to testing. This strike force will also work with an advisory council of thirty-nine successful Texas business and community leaders to help plan and execute a safe reopening of Texas businesses. The complete list of the advisory council may be found here.

The governor also issued an executive order (GA-16) related to reopening retail businesses. This order provides that all retail stores in Texas should be able to operate using a “retail-to-go” model beginning as soon as April 24. According to the Governor, this temporary plan will allow businesses to cautiously reopen, with the understanding that retailers must adhere to strict standards that can be found at DSHS.Texas.gov/Coronavirus. Under this model, reopened establishments are required to minimize contact with customers, which could require delivering items to customer’s cars or homes. The executive order also instructs Texas schools to close for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. This includes all public, private, and higher education campuses.

Additionally, the governor announced that state parks will reopen on April 20, however, visitors to the park must wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and may not assemble in groups of more than five.

Significantly, the text of the executive order states that it supersedes any conflicting order issued by local officials, but only to the extent that a local order restricts essential services or reopened retail services allowed by this executive order, or allows gatherings prohibited by this executive order.

When Governor Abbott was asked how his announcements today impact his March 31 order that Texas stay at home through April 30 except when engaging in essential activities, Abbott said that the rules he announced today were “additional exceptions to that stay-at-home policy.” Abbott added that if the data shows that Texas is continuing to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it is “possible the state could go back to the statewide standards it had prior to the stay-at-home order.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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