Firm News

Reopening the Economy: Part 7

By Preston W. Rose
Attorney at McGuire, Craddock & Strother, P.C.
March 5, 2021

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has removed state restrictions on businesses and ended the statewide mask mandate. Taking effect on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, Executive Order No. GA-34 will allow all businesses to operate at 100% capacity and will remove the statewide mask mandate, except in “areas with high hospitalizations.” For a summary of Governor Abbott’s previous COVID-19 executive orders, please see my earlier articles: Reopening the Economy: Part 1, Reopening the Economy: Part 2, Reopening the Economy: Part 3, Reopening the Economy: Part 4, Reopening the Economy: Part 5, and Reopening the Economy: Part 6. A summary of the changes and updates is provided below:

Updates and Changes

On March 10, most of the state will be free from any COVID-19 related operating limits for businesses and establishments. Face masks will not be required by the state and may not be required by any jurisdiction, except in areas with high hospitalizations. However, face masks are still strongly encouraged in places where social distancing is not possible, and businesses and other establishments may continue to require employees and customers to follow additional hygiene measures, such as the wearing of face masks.

A Trauma Service Area is an “area with high hospitalizations,” defined as seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15%. That distinction will remain until such time as the Trauma Service Area has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity is 15% or less. These areas of high hospitalizations will not have state-mandated operating limits or a state mask requirement, but the county judge can impose additional restrictions, provided such restrictions comply with the following guidelines:

• Businesses and other establishments cannot be required to operate at less than 50% (places of worship, schools, and childcare facilities cannot have operating limits);
• No jurisdiction can impose confinement in jail as a penalty for violating any
COVID-19 restriction or order; and
• Jurisdictions may not impose any penalty for failure to wear a mask or failure to require employees or customers to wear masks; however, a legally authorized official may act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner.

Conclusion

While COVID-19 is still a pressing concern for Texans, the state will no longer require most Texans to wear masks or restrict businesses and establishments from operating at full capacity. The responsibility to make safe choices and take COVID-19 precautions will fall on individual Texans and business owners.

For more information, please contact Preston W. Rose at [email protected].

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.