Firm News

Reopening the Economy: Part 3

By Preston W. Rose
Attorney at McGuire, Craddock & Strother
May 19, 2020

On May 18, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Phase 2 of his plan to reopen Texas.[1]  For a summary of Gov. Abbott’s previous guidance, please see my earlier articles: Reopening the Economy: Part 1 and Reopening the Economy: Part 2 Some of Gov. Abbott’s changes go into effect immediately, while others are slated to take effect on May 22, 2020, and May 31, 2020.  Please visit the official website for individualized “checklists” from the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas that provide additional guidance on reopening.  A summary of the changes and updates is provided below:

Guidelines Immediately in Effect

Governor Abbott expanded the list of businesses that were already permitted to reopen on May 18, 2020, (e.g., gyms, select manufacturers, and offices).  The additional businesses that may reopen immediately are:

Child care centers other than youth camps (please note that such centers do not have a 25 percent occupancy limit);

Massage establishments, provided that such establishments must ensure at least six feet of distance between operating work stations;

Businesses that provide personal-care and beauty services that have not already reopened, such as tattoo studios, piercing studios, hair removal services, and hair loss treatment and growth services, provided that such businesses must ensure at least six feet of distance between operating work stations; and

Youth clubs (e.g., Boy Scouts, FFA, etc.), provided that for any club that holds indoor meetings, those meetings should be limited to no more than ten individuals, and six feet of distance must be maintained between individuals.

Guidelines Taking Effect on May 22

Bars and similar establishments may resume operation at 25 percent occupancy.  Customers should only be served if seated.  Groups should keep at least six feet of distance from other groups at all times, and individuals within groups should also keep a six-foot distance between each other.  No loitering in heavily trafficked areas should be permitted.  Activities that enable close human contact, such as dancing, are discouraged.  Orders should be taken by a web or phone application, and contactless payment is encouraged.

Restaurants that were previously eligible to operate at 25 percent may increase occupancy to 50 percent.

Bowling alleys, bingo halls, simulcast racing, and skating rinks may operate at 25 percent occupancy, provided that bowling alleys must maintain at least six feet of distance between operating lanes.

Rodeos and equestrian events (but not county fairs) may resume with spectators, provided occupancy is limited to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy, or, for outdoor areas, occupancy is limited to up to 25 percent of the normal operating limits, as determined by the facility owner.

Aquariums, natural caverns, and other similar venues (excluding zoos) may reopen at 25 percent occupancy, provided that all interactive areas shall remain closed.  Please note that zoos may reopen on May 29, 2020 under similar guidelines as aquariums and natural caverns.  Local governments still have the last say on locally controlled establishments.

Drive-in concerts may resume, if they follow social distancing guidelines and generally require spectators to remain in their vehicles.

Amateur sporting events may resume, provided that there is no general public access and all participants have tested negative for COVID-19 prior to the event, are quarantined for the duration of the event, are temperature-checked and monitored for symptoms daily, and are tested again for COVID-19 at the end of the event.

Guidelines Taking Effect on May 31

Day youth camps may reopen but must follow state guidelines.

Overnight youth camps may resume operation.  Staff are strongly recommended to report to campgrounds and facilities at least 7–10 days prior to the start of the camp in order to monitor staff and confirm that no staff members have COVID-19.  Specific guidelines include sanitation protocols for heavily used areas.

Professional basketball, baseball, softball, golf, tennis, football, and car racing events are allowed to resume without spectators.

Youth sports programs may resume; provided, however, that while practices may begin, games and other competitions may not begin until June 15, 2020.

Exceptions

Rural counties that have five or fewer cases of COVID-19 may be eligible to allow those services, establishments, and facilities listed above to operate at up to 50 percent occupancy instead of 25 percent if they fulfill several requirements set by the State.

Due to local spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases, the Phase 2 reopening timeframes described above are not applicable to Deaf Smith, El Paso, Moore, Potter, and Randall counties.  In a press conference on May 18, 2020, Gov. Abbott indicated that such counties may be able to begin Phase 2 on May 29, 2020, but that the timeframe is tentative.  Please seek out the latest official state guidance for new details as they become available.

Conclusion

With the commencement of Phase 2, Texas has taken the next step in its progression of reopening the economy.  As restrictions are relaxed, businesses should regularly review and abide by the latest local and state guidelines.

For more information or for advice on when, whether and how a specific business may reopen, please contact Preston W. Rose at [email protected].

[1] Executive Order No. GA-23 may be found at:
https://lrl.texas.gov/scanned/govdocs/Greg%20Abbott/2020/GA-23.pdf.

This correspondence should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances.  The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation and legal questions.