Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On March 2, 2021, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-34 regarding the reopening of Texas businesses amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Pursuant to GA-34, effective March 10, 2021, a person is no longer required to wear a face covering pursuant to a state or countywide mandate. Further, businesses and other organizations are permitted to operate at 100 percent capacity without any operating limitations. Although capacity and face covering restrictions will no longer be required on a state or countywide basis, businesses and other organizations may still limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols at their own discretion, including the wearing of face coverings.
County judges in “areas with high hospitalizations” may execute COVID-19-related mitigation strategies, but cannot require that a business or establishment operate at less than 50 percent of total occupancy. Further, county judges may not impose operating limitations on religious services, public and private schools (including institutions of higher education), and child-care services.
An “area with high hospitalization” is defined as a Trauma Service Area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15 percent. Such an area will have this designation until it has experienced seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity is 15 percent or less. A current list of areas with high hospitalizations can be found at www.dshs.texas.gov/ga3031.
Although COVID-19-related mitigation is permitted under certain circumstances, no jurisdiction can impose a penalty of any kind for failure to wear a face covering or failure to mandate that customers or employees wear face coverings. A legally authorized official may, however, act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner.
In addition to the foregoing, GA-34 strongly encourages all individuals, businesses, and other organizations to continue following the state’s Minimum Recommended Health Protocols.
GA-34 also provides the following regarding health care facilities, schools, and jails:
- Nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities should follow guidance from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission;
- Public Schools may operate as provided by, and under the minimum standard health protocols found in, guidance issued by the Texas Education Agency, and private schools and institutions of higher education are encouraged to establish similar standards; and
- County and municipal jails should follow guidance from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards regarding visitations.
Local officials are prohibited from issuing orders imposing restrictions inconsistent with GA-34. In addition, GA-34 supersedes any conflicting order previously issued by local officials. Local officials may, however, enforce GA-34, as well as any local restrictions that are consistent with GA-34.
GA-34 will remain in effect and in full force unless it is modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by Governor Abbott.