The Open Texas Plan: Phase 3 of the Governor’s COVID-19 Reopening Plan

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On June 3, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the state may begin the final phase of its three-phase reopening plan. In conjunction with phase 3, the governor issued Executive Order GA-26 (GA-26), which supersedes his prior orders.

Steps to Reopen Texas

On April 27, 2020, Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA-18 (GA-18) regarding the reopening of Texas businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.  GA-18 was issued in tandem with a report entitled Texans Helping Texans: The Governor's Report to Open Texas. A week later, Governor Abbott announced phase 2 of his reopening plan and issued Executive Order GA-21 (GA-21), which superseded GA-18, expanded the categories of reopened services initially announced in GA-18 and, subject to certain conditions and limitations, permitted newly added businesses to reopen on staggered dates. 

On May 18, 2020, Governor Abbott expanded phase 2 of his reopening plan and issued Executive Order GA-23 (GA-23).  GA-23 superseded GA-21 and expanded the conditions and limitations placed on businesses as they reopened. 

Latest Order

Under Executive Order GA-26, which supersedes GA-23, the following businesses may operate without occupancy restrictions:

  • Any services listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 3.1 or any subsequent version;
  • Religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship;
  • Local government operations, including county and municipal governmental operations relating to licensing (including marriage licenses), permitting, recordation, and document-filing services;
  • Child-care services;
  • Youth camps, including summer, daytime and overnight camps; and
  • Recreational sports programs for youths and adults.

In addition, the following businesses may operate at full capacity as long as they operate with at least six feet between work stations:

  • Cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons/shops;
  • Massage establishments and similar facilities; and
  • Other personal-care and beauty services such as tanning salons, tattoo studios, piercing studios, hair removal services, and hair loss treatment and growth services.

The following establishments may only operate at up to 50% of their normal operating limits:

  • Professional, collegiate, or similar sporting events;
  • Swimming pools;
  • Water parks;
  • Museums and libraries;
  • Zoos, aquariums, natural caverns, and similar facilities; and
  • Rodeos and equestrian events.

Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with less than 1,000 confirmed positive cases may open at 50% capacity.  Amusement parks and carnivals in counties with more than 1,000 confirmed positive cases must remained closed until June 19, at which point they can reopen and operate at 50% capacity.

All businesses previously authorized to operate at 25% capacity are permitted to operate at 50% capacity until June 12, at which time they may begin operating at 75% capacity.  Bars and similar establishments may operate at 50% capacity as long as patrons are seated. 

As with prior executive orders, GA-26 encourages individuals to wear face coverings, but makes clear that no local or county jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to do so.  GA-26 also encourages Texans to avoid groups of 10 or more people, recommends that individuals 65 or older stay at home as much as possible, and asks people to continue avoiding nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities.

In tandem with GA-26, the Texas Department of State Health Services released an updated set of minimum standard health protocols for businesses. The full list of protocols is available here.

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