Reopening Texas: Governor Abbott Expands the List of Covered Services
On May 26, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation expanding the list of “Covered Services” permitted to reopen in Texas. The proclamation is consistent with Executive Order GA-23, which “continu[es] through June 3, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”
First, the proclamation authorizes food-court dining areas within shopping malls to reopen subject to the general occupancy limitation of 25 percent that had been previously identified for shopping malls. The Office of the Texas Governor recommends that malls “designate one or more individuals who are responsible for ensuring health and safety practices are followed, including limiting tables to six individuals; maintaining a six-[foot] distance between individuals sitting at different tables; cleaning and disinfecting tables between uses; and ensuring no condiments or other items are left on tables between customer uses.”
The proclamation further provides that driver education programs may resume operations immediately, subject to a 25 percent occupancy limitation for classroom instruction.
Beginning on May 29, 2020, water parks, including food services offered within the parks, may reopen at up to 25 percent occupancy. Any components of a water park that have interactive functions or exhibits, such as child play areas or video arcades, must remain closed.
Recreational sports programs for adults may also resume operation beginning on May 31, 2020, but such programs are to be limited to practices only and spectators are not allowed. Games and competitions may not resume until June 15, 2020, at which time spectators will be allowed.
The Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas has issued minimum standard health protocols consistent with the proclamation and applicable to the expanded covered services, including those for driving schools, water parks, and adult recreational sports operators. These businesses, of course, remain free to implement additional protocols consistent with their specific needs and circumstances.
For driving schools, the applicable protocol recommends “disinfect[ing] the vehicle prior to a driving lesson or road exam” and permitting the student driver to have one member of his or her household inside the training vehicle. The protocol also requires a separation of at least six feet of social distancing between students and instructors except when delivering or receiving in-car instructions or participating in a Texas Department of Public Safety road test.
The minimum standard health protocols for adult recreational sports operators require that participants be provided notice of “the enhanced risks of being in direct contact with anyone age 65 or older for 14 days after participating in a sporting event or practice.” In addition, the applicable protocol disfavors spectator groups larger than 10 individuals and discourage[s] “group excursions related to adult recreation sports.” Finally, the applicable protocol recommends the development and implementation of a “Program Activity Hygiene Plan” for the sanitization of program areas and equipment.
Additionally, on May 26, 2020, the Texas Department of State Health Services published printable workplace signage that businesses may post regarding best practices for avoiding COVID-19 and proper handwashing technique. Posting these signs is now recommended as part of the minimum standard health protocols applicable to Texas businesses.