COVID-19 Texas News for Lobbyists

Governor Abbott Suspends Further Openings

This week, Texas saw an increase in COVID-19 cases. In response, Governor Greg Abbott issued three executive orders and announced a temporary pause of any further phases to open Texas.

This morning, Governor Abbott released an Executive Order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by restricting high traffic areas.

The order includes the following:

  • All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at 12:00 PM today. These businesses may remain open for delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
  • Restaurants may remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy, beginning Monday, June 29, 2020.
  • Rafting and tubing businesses must close.
  • Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.

“As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” said Governor Abbott. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business. I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others. The more that we all follow these guidelines, the safer our state will be and the more we can open up Texas for business.”

His June 23 executive order granted local authorities increased jurisdiction over outdoor gathering of 100 or more people. Under the prior order issued on June 3, local governments could only limit outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people.

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe issued an order Thursday (6/25) banning outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people beginning today (6/26) and implemented a fine up to $1,000 for those who violate the order.

Governor Abbott’s June 25 executive order seeks to increase hospital bed capacity by suspending elective surgeries at hospitals in the four largest counties: Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis. Through proclamation, the Governor can add or subtract from the list of counties included in the executive order to address surges in hospitalizations that may arise in other parts of the state.

Mask Requirements Update

Counties and cities across Texas continue to follow Bexar County in requiring masks for businesses. The following local governments have passed local mask ordinances or measures:

  • Bexar County
  • Cameron County
  • Dallas County
  • El Paso County
  • City of Galveston
  • Harris County
  • Hays County
  • Hidalgo County
  • Travis County

On Wednesday, Governor Abbott announced that the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), in partnership with the Texas Military Department, will begin distributing 3-ply surgical masks to every Texan who undergoes COVID-19 testing at state-run mobile test collection sites. Beginning Thursday, June 25, each Texan who receives a COVID-19 test at a state-run mobile testing site will be provided with four masks to take home with them. Texans can find a testing site near them by visiting TDEM’s COVID-19 Test Collection Site map.

TDI extends telemedicine emergency rule into September

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) announced this week that it is extending a requirement that insurers cover telemedicine services, including mental health visits, at the same rate as in-person visits.

Under the emergency rule, state-regulated health insurers and HMOs must:

  • Pay in-network health professionals the same rate for telemedicine services as for in-person services
  • Cover telemedicine services using any platform permitted by state law
  • Not require more documentation for telemedicine services than they require for in-person services

The original emergency rule took effect on March 17 and was set to expire July 14. Under the extension, the rule will remain in effect through September 12.