Gov. Abbott Orders Closures, Restrictions

Mar 19, 2020

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday issued an executive order that will close many Texas restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses this weekend, as governments across the U.S. move to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The order takes effect at 12 a.m. Saturday morning and continues through April 3, Abbott said in a briefing from the Texas Capitol.

Dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms to close; Nursing home visits limited

Details of the order include limiting social gatherings to 10 or fewer people, banning nursing home visits except for critical care, the closure of gyms, the closure of bars, and the closure of schools that had not already been closed. Restaurants that offer take-out service may remain open but dining in will be prohibited.

The move makes statewide the restrictions that some local jurisdictions have already passed. For example, Dallas County had already ordered dine-in restaurant closures. Nationwide, 10 other states had adopted similar restrictions. The order reflects current federal guidelines.

The new rules are not a shelter-in-place order, Abbott said. Texans can still go to grocery stores, banks, gas stations, and even public parks, provided recommended precautions are beings used.

"All critical infrastructure" remains open, the statement said. Employers can keep their workplaces open but should only use "essential employees" and allow others to work remotely, Abbott said.

Other details from the order included the prohibition of dining at “food courts,” such as found in malls.  The prohibition of non-essential nursing home visits said “people shall not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.” Massage therapy establishments, referred to in the order as “massage parlors,” were also directed to close.

Cases rise in Dallas and Collin counties; Smith, Bowie counties report cases

As of late afternoon on Thursday, Dallas County had reported 55 cases of COVID-19, including one death. Collin County had reported 13 cases, including one death. In Northeast Texas, Bowie County, which includes Texarkana, had reported one case. Smith County, which includes Tyler, had reported five cases, while neighboring Gregg and Rusk counties had reported one case each.

Statewide, the count stood at 161 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and three people have died, according to the latest numbers provided Thursday by the Texas Department of State Health Services and Centers for Disease Control.

The executive order could be extended beyond April 3 depending on the status of the outbreak in Texas, Abbott said.

Abbott also said that state health commissioner John Hellerstedt has declared a statewide public health disaster. The last such declaration was made in 1901, Abbott said.