The following is a summary of actions taken by Texas’ executive branch, including the Governor and relevant state agencies, in response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. There are currently over 700 confirmed cases in Texas, with several major metropolitan counties having issued shelter-in-place orders lasting up to two weeks. In coordination with the Governor, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has led Texas’ response to COVID-19 thus far.
Our Firm will continue to update this timeline as the state government continues to take actions responsive to the spread of COVID-19. Please do not hesitate to contact us if there is any way we can assist you, your family, or your business in these difficult times.
March 27, 2020 – Small Business, Government Operation
Governor Abbott waived Texas Workforce Commission regulations to preserve and extend child care capacity for front line workers. This action is taken in conjunction with the Supply Chain Strike Force, and its goal is to allow flexibility to respond to child care needs for critical workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Children subject to this waiver will be able to accrue absences without affecting their eligibility for benefits through TWC programs. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced the deployment of three National Guard divisions in Texas. The main role of the National Guard in combating the spread of COVID-19 in Texas is to assist with infrastructure development, including establishing drive-thru testing facilities and assisting with supply chain issues across the state. More information can be found here.
March 26, 2020 – Government Operations, Small Business, Healthcare
Governor Abbott requested release of unused federal unemployment funds to pay unemployment claims. More information can be found here.
Texas Health and Human Services Commission submitted a Medicaid Waiver to the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid. If approved, this would grant Texas flexibility in administering Medicaid while the state continues to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Specifically, this increased flexibility would include extending prior authorizations for services, allowing services to be performed via telemedicine, allow the state to waive any requirements that require the signature of a physician or medical provider, streamlining provider enrollment for out-of-state and new providers to increase the overall number of providers in Texas, and waiving certain state licensing requirements to allow out-of-state physicians to render services in Texas. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also signed an executive order mandating the 14-day quarantine of any traveler arriving in Texas from the tri-state area (composed of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) and New Orleans. More information can be found here.
March 25, 2020 – Healthcare, Government Operations
Governor Abbott announced that the State received a $16.2mm grant from the Federal Department of Health and the Human Services Administration for Community Living to provide meals for older adults. More information can be found here.
The Governor and Texas Health and human Services Commission also requested permission from the Department of Agriculture to allow Texas SNAP recipients to use their benefits at take out and drive-thru restaurants in lieu of visiting grocery stores. The text of the letter can be found here. We will follow up and update if and when this request is approved.
Governor Abbott also announced that President Donald Trump authorized the declaration of a major disaster in the state of Texas. This was a follow-up to Governor Abbott’s request for disaster declaration on March 23rd. This declaration will allow more federal resources to flow into the state to combat the spread of COVID-19. More information can be found here.
The Governor also waived two licensing requirements applicable to the healthcare industry. The first waiver was as to renewal of nursing licenses and related fees. For the next six months, nurses with expired licenses will not be required to renew their licenses. The second waiver was in reference to licensing of medical facilities and available hospital beds. Medical facilities that have pending licenses or facilities that have been closed no more than 36 months are allowed to come online under existing hospital building licenses. These facilities must be operated by hospitals with existing, valid licenses. The waiver also allows for existing, licensed hospitals to operate facilities more than 30 miles away from their facility. More information can be found here and here.
March 24, 2020 – Healthcare
The Texas Medical Board adopted rules related to enforcement of Governor Abbott’s prohibition against elective surgeries during the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. While the TMB rules primarily relate to punishment for violations of the Governor’s order, they also carve out an exception for certain “urgent” elective surgeries. This article authored by Cantey Hanger partner Julie Bergkamp provides thorough analysis of what constitutes urgent and non-urgent elective surgeries under the TMB’s new rules.
March 24, 2020 – Healthcare, Small Business/Restaurants
Governor Abbott announced that the State’s Supply Chain Strike Force secured more than $83mm worth of purchase orders for essential medical supplies and will begin receiving 100,000 medical masks per day by the end of next week. The Texas Division of Emergency Management will also begin receiving 1,000 masks per day by the end of next week. The state will operate an intake portal for those wanting to provide valid leads for more personal protective equipment, donations of medical supplies, and medical professionals willing to volunteer. The portal is accessible at www.texas.gov. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott issued an executive order to better track hospital bed capacity and COVID-19 test results statewide. The text of the executive order can be found here.
The Governor also directed the DSHS to authorize restaurants to sell bulk retail products from distributors to the public. All such products must still be in their original packaging, presented as received by the restaurant from the wholesaler. This includes items like packaged meat, fruits and vegetables, and dry goods. More information can be found here.
March 23, 2020 – Government Operations, Healthcare
Governor Abbott formally requested a major federal disaster declaration in Texas. This declaration has implications on Federal Government relief; it is a signal to the Federal Government that Texas will require supplemental relief to manage the spread of the virus. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott announced that the CDC has granted the State of Texas $36.9 million as part of Congress’ first Coronavirus response bill. More information can be found here.
March 22, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott, by executive order, postponed all non-immediate surgeries and procedures to expand hospital bed capacity. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also announced the creation of Supply Chain Strike Force, a temporary organization established to ensure collaboration between public and private sectors to supply health care facilities with necessary supplies and resources. More information can be found here.
March 21, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott waived state regulations to expand the available nursing workforce, by (1) allowing temporary permit extensions to practice for graduate nurses who haven’t yet been licensed, (2) allowing nursing students in their final year to meet clinical objectives by exceeding the 50% limit on simulated experiences, and (3) allowing nurses with inactive licenses or retired nurses to reactivate their licenses. More information can be found here.
 The Texas Department of State Health Services maintains a website with up-to-date warnings and information which can be found here: https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/. This timeline is based on information compiled by the National Governor’s Association using press releases from the office of Governor Greg Abbott. The original timeline can be found here.
 Currently, the counties of Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis have all issued shelter-in-place orders effective until early April.
March 20, 2020 – Consumer Protection, Small Business, Government Operations
The Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order suspending residential eviction proceedings through April 19, 2020. Governor Abbott affirmed this decision as an important step in protecting the rights of Texans during the duration of the virus. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott announced that the Federal Small Business Administration had granted the State of Texas access to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. The link for a loan application through SBA can be found here. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott announced the temporary suspension of certain provisions of the Alcoholic Beverage Code to allow for refunds of application fees to businesses who applied for temporary event permits that have been cancelled due to the spread of the virus. If you believe you are entitled to a refund for a license application, you should consult the TABC website here. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also ordered all primary runoff elections postponed until July 14, 2020. More information can be found here.
March 19, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott issued a series of executive orders which included: (1) prohibiting public gatherings of 10 or more people; (2) discouraging dine-in at restaurants and bars, or visitation of gyms or massage parlors; (3) prohibiting visitation to nursing homes, retirement homes, or long-term care facilities; and (4) closing all schools. More information can be found here.
The Commissioner of DSHS declared a state of public health disaster for the State. Along with this declaration, the Commissioner issued updated hygiene recommendations to help prevent further spread of the virus. More information can be found here.
March 18, 2020 – Government Operations, Small Business/Restaurants
Governor Abbott directed the Department of Public Safety to temporarily waive all driver’s license and identification card expiration dates. The Governor Also ordered the immediate closure of all driver license offices statewide. More information can be found here and here.
Governor Abbott issued a proclamation suspending portions of the Texas Election Code to allow certain local elections to be delayed until after the duration of the virus. An advisory letter from the State Elections Division can be found here.
Governor Abbott also issued a waiver which allows restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with food purchases to customers. The Governor also directed the Alcoholic Beverage Commission to allow manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of alcoholic beverages to repurchase or sell back unopened products. More information can be found here.
March 17, 2020 – Government Operations, Healthcare, Small Business
Governor Abbott activated the National Guard in preparation to assist with the response to the spread of the virus. That activation does not apply to first responders and healthcare workers. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also granted waivers to allow hospitals to increase the number of unused beds without having to submit applications or pay fees, and directed the Texas Department of Insurance to issue an emergency order that telemedicine visits with physicians should be paid in the same manner as normal doctor’s visits to increase the availability of doctors during the duration of the virus. More information can be found here and here.
Governor Abbott requested designation from the Federal Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Declaration in order to gain access to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for the entire state of Texas. This program provides long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying business. Businesses who believe they may be eligible for an Emergency Injury Disaster Loan should visit: https://tdem.texas.gov/covid-19/.
March 16, 2020 – Education, Government Operations
Governor Abbott began waiving certain state requirements, including State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for the 2019-2020 school year, as well as certain rules related to vehicle registration, parking placards, and vehicle titling in an effort to reduce public exposure to the virus. More information can be found here.
Governor Abbott also suspended certain Open Meetings statute requirements to allow for telephonic and video meetings which are accessible to the public where possible. More information can be found here.
March 13, 2020 – Healthcare
Governor Abbott declared a state of disaster in Texas due to the outbreak of COVID-19 through his authority under Texas Government Code § 418.014. The declaration stated in general terms that its purpose was to expand state resources available to combat the spread of the virus. More information can be found here.
March 12, 2020 – Healthcare, Education
Governor Abbott hosted a call with Texas legislators, Mayors, and County Judges, reinforcing the state’s commitment to ensuring all jurisdictions have the appropriate medical supplies. Governor Abbott was joined by other agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and the Texas Education Agency, noting that School superintendents would be briefed weekly on Cov-19 updates from then onward. More information can be found here.
March 11, 2020 – Health Insurance, Healthcare
Governor Abbott and the Texas Department of Insurance requested that insurers and HMOs waive copayments, co-insurance, and deductibles for testing and telemedicine visits for the diagnosis of coronavirus. More information can be found here.
March 6, 2020 – Consumer Protection, Healthcare
Governor Abbott issued a public statement addressing the issue of price-gouging on medical supplies. Governor Abbott explained that he had the power to expand the state attorney general’s office’s power to prosecute those engaged in price-gouging on in-demand medical and sanitary supplies. More information can be found here.
January 27, 2020 – Healthcare
The DSHS activated the State Medical Operations Center, which is an entity tasked with coordinating state response to disease outbreaks by fielding requests from local hospitals, and ensures accurate tracking and reporting of data. More information can be found here.