Governor Abbott extends social distancing guidelines to April 30, school closures to May 4

Posted at 2:17 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 17:07:00-04

In a press conference on Tuesday, Governor Abbott extended Texas' social distancing guidelines to April 30.

This decision aligns with the president's directive on Sunday. During the press conference, he said this is not a shelter in place or a stay at home order.

He said that even the orders that are currently in place in many counties across Texas are not classified as shelter in place or stay at home.

Governor Abbott issued an Executive Order implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the entire state of Texas.

The protocols direct all Texans to minimize non-essential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.

The Governor’s Executive Order renews and amends his previous order enforcing federal social distancing guidelines for COVID-19, including closing schools and instructing Texans to avoid eating or drinking at bars and restaurants.

He said that this executive order allows essential services.

Examples of these essential services include healthcare, grocery stores, banking and financial services, utilities, child care for essential service employees, and government services.

He said this order allows people to go outside, but not gather in groups.

"By reducing personal interactions, you are saving lives," he said.

This Executive Order does not prohibit people from accessing essential services or engaging in essential daily activities, such as going to the grocery store or gas station, providing or obtaining other essential services, hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. The order also includes exemption for religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship. All critical infrastructure will remain operational, and government entities and businesses will continue providing essential services.

Religious services are also deemed an essential service and must either be conducted virtually, or abide by appropriate social distancing measures if in-person, Abbott said, giving an example of a "drive-up" service where people remain in their cars.

"That seems like it would satisfy the criteria that we're talking about," Abbott said.

For example, he said if churches want to have drive-up Easter services, that is allowed. In these cases, a family would drive up to receive Easter service.

Schools will be closed until May 4, he also said.

These orders will be effective on a statewide basis starting at 12:01 AM on April 2, 2020 and will end on April 30, 2020, subject to extension thereafter based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the CDC.

He announced that the death toll in Texas is now at 41. Texas has administered 42,922 COVID-19 tests and 3,266 of those tests were positive.

Of those that test positive, 11 percent are hospitalized.