'Now is the time to redouble our efforts': Abbott issues executive order for state on COVID-19 extending school closures, clarifying essential services

Gov. Greg Abbott updated Texans and issued an executive order regarding the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during a March 31 afternoon press conference. (Screenshot via livestream)
Gov. Greg Abbott updated Texans and issued an executive order regarding the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during a March 31 afternoon press conference. (Screenshot via livestream)

Gov. Greg Abbott updated Texans and issued an executive order regarding the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during a March 31 afternoon press conference. (Screenshot via livestream)

Gov. Greg Abbott updated Texans and issued an executive order regarding the state's response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis during a March 31 afternoon press conference.

Abbott was joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick; Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen; John Hellerstedt, the commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services; Nim Kidd, the chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management; and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath.

To begin, Abbott provided data showing there have been 3,266 positive cases of COVID-19 in Texas.

"Now is the time to redouble our efforts ... to make sure we rid ourselves of the coronavirus," Abbott said, reinforcing the need to adhere to guidelines from President Donald Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Abbott issued an executive order that he said will maximize the number of lives that can be saved.


Texans are expected to limit the number of actions that could expose them to COVID-19 while still allowing for essential actions such as grocery shopping, Abbott said.

The essential services guidelines and essential activities are connected, and they include any activity to access essential services. Those include getting gas, going to a hardware store and grocery shopping.

Religious activity conducted in person should be consistent with the CDC guidelines. All critical infrastructure will still remain open.

This order will remain in place through April 30, and it recommends schools remain closed until May 4.

"At a time when lives are literally at risk, Texans continue to rise to the occasion," Abbott said. "But, as the president has made clear, we are not yet done with our response."

Patrick said the death rate per capita in Texas, with its population of 29 million, is one of the lowest in the country, but that needs to be maintained.

Bonnen also strongly urged all nonessential workers to stay home, and Hellerstedt reasserted this policy will serve to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"I believe that over time we are going to be able to measure that we have had an impact on the rate of spread of COVID-[19] in the state," Hellerstedt said.

Regarding education and school policy, Morath said Texas officials are doing everything in their power to support parents.

"We care about your health. We want you to stay healthy," Abbott said and added any law enforcement officer in Texas is authorized by his executive order to enforce the requirements of the state's shelter-in-place mandate.

Asked about crucial health supply shortages, Kidd said health care workers are encouraged to use one mask per person per shift so there is no waste at this critical time.

Abbott confirmed local jurisdictions in Texas retain the right to establish policies they consider more strict than state orders.

With regard to unemployment claims, Abbott said the state is adding hundreds of employees to help get funds to those who need them.

"The good news is the money is there," Abbott said and complimented the federal government on its speed in appropriating funds for those hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

A list of allowed essential services in Texas can be found at www.tdem.texas.gov/essentialservices.
By Brian Rash
Brian has been a reporter and editor since 2012. He wrote about the music scene in Dallas-Fort Worth before becoming managing editor for the Graham Leader in Graham, Texas, in 2013. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in 2015 to work for Gatehouse Media's large design hub. He became the editor for the Lake Travis-Westlake publication of Community Impact in August 2018.


MOST RECENT

From left: Peter Keilty and Chris Abramson of Bees for All tend to one of their hives. (Amy Rae Dadamo/Community Impact Newspaper)
Bees for All teaches the importance of local pollinators

Local business produces honey from seven hives on a 5-acres site.

Chacasso (pictured) and Micah Pearman own Flip'N Art, a custom art business in Bee Cave.
Lake Travis area becomes unlikely home to a growing arts scene

“Arts are the light coming out of the darkness. You need to see the beauty around us and the beauty that we can all create, and we’re just hungry for connection.” Kat Albert said. “For us, it’s not just about seeing something beautiful. It’s about having that interaction with another human that makes you feel alive.”

Utility work is related to ongoing construction of a bypass of RM 2222 and RM 620. (Courtesy Fotolia)
TxDOT lane closure scheduled for RM 620 beginning May 9

Drivers in west Travis County headed southbound on RM 620 should expect delays beginning at RM 2222 to Steiner Ranch Boulevard on May 9 from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Work crews with the Texas Department of Transportation will have the right lane closed due to utility work.

Tents have become a common sight throughout Austin including along Cesar Chavez Street downtown, but with the passage of Proposition B the city may now consider moving unsheltered homeless individuals to designated sites. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Hall notebook: Designated campsites for the homeless are back on the table

City staff had previously dismissed developing official camping locations in 2019, but new directives from City Council this week could revive the concept in Austin.

Wag-A-Bag is headquartered in Round Rock. (Megan Cardona/Community Impact Newspaper)
Wag-A-Bag to operate under new ownership, name; Austin, TxDOT at odds over I-35 overhaul; and more top Central Texas news

Read the most popular business and community news from the past week from the Austin area.

The current legislative session is in its final month, and lawmakers have been considering a number of proposed bills to address the widespread power and water outages that occurred as a result of the February winter storm. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper).
Texas Legislature moves flurry of winter storm bills

How ERCOT communicates with other state agencies under review by state lawmakers.

Stephanie Hayden-Howard will become an assistant city manager in Austin on May 10. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Role changes coming for health officials leading Austin-Travis County COVID-19 efforts

Dr. Desmar Walkes will take over as Austin's next medical director and local health authority as Dr. Mark Escott and Stephanie Hayden-Howard transition to new roles with the city.

Leander ISD admin building
Leander ISD board approves 2% raise for district staff in 2021-22 school year

If financial parameters are met, the increase could be raised to 3% or additional one-time stipends could be approved in the future.

The convenience store chain is known for its Slurpees and self-serve soda fountains. (Courtesy 7-Eleven)
New 7-Eleven location coming to Spicewood

A new 7/11 convenience store is under construction at 1700 Sweetwater Village Drive, Spicewood.

A pilot Austin Police Department cadet class is now set to commence in June under an updated training regimen and with additional city and community oversight on the APD academy's culture and curriculum. (John Cox/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin City Council votes to restart APD cadet training in June, with framework for ongoing reviews of pilot academy

The Austin Police Department's 144th cadet class will now kick off training next month, with continued oversight of APD's instruction and culture throughout the 34-week academy process.