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Gov. Greg Abbott orders Texans to “minimize” nonessential activity outside their homes

Texas Tribune

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(Last Updated On: April 24, 2020)

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday told Texans to stay at home for the next month when not taking part in essential services, issuing an executive order to minimize social gatherings and in-person contact outside of homes. He also announced that schools would remain closed until at least May 4.


At a press conference at the Texas Capitol, Abbott purposefully stopped short of calling the decree a “stay-at-home order,” saying he wanted Texans to know they could still leave their homes to do things such as go to the grocery store or go for a jog. But when asked whether Tuesday’s order brings Texas up to speed with states that have issued shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, Abbott answered, “It’s a fact.”

“If you’re not engaged in an essential service or activity, then you need to be at home for the purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

The state has outlined a list of more than a dozen sectors that provide essential services that comply with Abbott’s order, which is largely aligned with federal guidance on the issue. Those include health care, energy, food and critical manufacturing. Texas’ list adds religious services, which are not included in federal guidance.


The language of the order — specifically the use of the word “minimize” — and Abbott’s reluctance to call it a stay-at-home order caused some uncertainty about its scope and what specifically it restricts. But Abbott spokesman John Wittman said after the governor’s news conference that the “only thing that is allowed are essential services and personal activities that correspond with those services.”

“That is in addition to the personal and religious activities that the executive order explicitly allows,” Wittman said.

Abbott later told The Texas Tribune that he said “minimize” instead of “cease” because “there could be some exceptions to the rule.”


“You never know what the exception would be, like let’s say there’s some emergency where you have to go do something or whatever the case may be,” he said. “And you don’t want to get people subject to being in violation of a law for a lack of clarity.”

Later, state Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said, “Gov. Abbott has essentially created a statewide stay-at-home order.”

“His press conference today was confusing at times, but we believe it amounts to a step in the right direction,” Turner said.

The order, which goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, expands on one Abbott issued earlier this month that did four things: limit social gatherings to 10 people; close bars, restaurants and gyms, while still allowing takeout; ban people from visiting nursing homes except for critical care; and temporarily close schools. That order is set to expire at midnight Friday.

Abbott’s latest order goes through April 30, aligning it with the new end date that President Donald Trump announced Monday for social-distancing guidelines.

“We’ve come too far to falter now,” Abbott said at the news conference, where he was joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. “We have made tremendous strides, but we have not yet reached our destination. … Together, we will persevere through this for another month.”

For over a week, Abbott has resisted calls for a statewide shelter-in-place order, leaving the decision up to local officials. In recent days, they have acted to put most of the Texas population under stay-at-home orders.

Abbott’s latest executive order supersedes any local rule where the two conflict. If local governments want to take more restrictive action than the executive order, Abbott said, they can do so as long as there is no conflict.

Hours before Abbott’s news conference, the leaders of the Texas Hospital Association and Texas Nurses Association released a letter to the governor saying the “time has come” for a statewide stay-at-home order.

“We urge you to implement this strict measure to prevent widespread illness in Texas,” the letter said.

There are at least 3,266 coronavirus cases in Texas, including 41 deaths, according to the most recent figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The cases are spread across 122 of the state’s 254 counties.

There have been 42,992 tests done in Texas, according to the latest numbers.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/03/31/greg-abbott-texas-executive-order-closures/.

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