On Friday, June 26, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued his Executive Order GA-28. This Order supersedes Executive Order GA-26 which was issued on June 3, 2020, at a time when the Governor was pushing the state toward reopening as soon as possible. Since the June order, however, the numbers of infected persons and hospital demand in Texas has spiked, forcing the Governor to throttle back on the reopening. (The Governor has also suspended elective hospital procedures in Texas four most populous counties—Bexar, Harris, Dallas and Travis. Executive Order GA-27.)
Like GA-26, Friday’s Executive Order generally requires all business establishments that are deemed non-essential to operate “at no more than 50 percent of the total listed occupancy,” subject to a number of additional restrictions and exceptions applicable to specific types of businesses and situations.
This occupancy restriction does not apply to “essential critical infrastructure workers” as determined by the federal Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in its
Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response (current version 3.1). On the list of essential businesses is “[r]esidential and commercial real estate services, including settlement services.” So the state occupancy restriction does not apply to real estate offices. The restriction also does not apply to county and municipal clerks offices (where you record deeds and apply for construction permits, etc.), child-care services, religious services, youth camps, and recreational sports programs.
Personal care services, such as hair/nail salons, barber shops, massage parlors, and tattoo studios are exempted from the occupancy restrictions if they “operate with at least six feet of social distancing between work stations.”
But Executive Order GA-28 gets tough with bars and large outdoor gatherings. “People shall not visit bars or similar establishments that hold a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC)” and do not qualify as restaurants (a food establishment that receives less than 51% of its gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages). Bars may provide drive-through, pickup, or delivery options to the extent allowed by the TABC.
And GA-28 prohibits any “outdoor gathering in excess of 100 people” unless approved by the mayor or county judge. Note that this prohibition does not apply to religious services, youth camps, sporting events, swimming pools, water parks, museums and libraries, zoos, rodeos, and other events which are either completely exempt from the occupancy restrictions or allowed to operate at a reduced occupancy level.
Finally, restaurants—which were allowed to operate at a 75% occupancy level under GA-26—must cut back to 50% operation as of Monday, June 29. (Business establishments, including restaurants, which are located in certain counties with minimal COVID-19 cases as determined by the Texas Department of State Health Services, can continue to operate at a 75% level.)
Violations of the Governor’s Executive Order may be punished by a fine up to $1,000 per violation.
CURRENT COUNTY AND CITY ORDERS
Orders issued by county and city officials in major urban areas require businesses to implement health and safety policies that include require wearing of face masks by employees and customers/clients, at least when they are in common areas where it is not possible to ensure physical separation by at least six feet.
Harris County/City of Houston – Houston Metro Area
In her order issued June 19, 2020, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo required all “commercial entities … providing goods and services directly to the public [to] develop and implement a Health and Safety Policy” that requires “all employees or visitors to the commercial entity’s business premises or other facilities wear face coverings when in an area or performing an activity which will necessarily involve close contact or proximity to co-workers or the public.”
In addition, all persons at least 10 years old must wear a face covering when in a public place “where it is difficult to keep six feet away from other people or working in … close proximity with other coworkers.”
Notwithstanding the above, face coverings are not required for the following activities:
- Outside exercise or physical activity
- Driving alone or with family members
- Pumping gas or operating outdoor equipment (like a lawn mower or leaf blower)
- When in a bank or other building that requires security surveillance or screening
- Eating food or drinking
Bexar County/City of San Antonio
The rules in Bexar County/City of San Antonio are substantially the same as the rules in Harris County.
These state restrictions and local orders impose legal requirements, but they do not prevent you from implementing best practices that go beyond what is legally required to keep people safe and minimize your risks. We encourage you to do so. Next Friday’s Newsletter will discuss things you can do to comply with CDC and state health guidelines and keep your agents, employees and clients healthy, both in the brokerage office and out in the field.
The Texas Real Estate Risk Management & Compliance Association is a Texas non-profit corporation dedicated to assisting Texas real estate license holders with risk management, legal compliance, brokerage policies, and best practices.
This is not an advertisement. Nor is it legal advice.
Consult with an attorney for legal advice.
But we welcome your questions and suggestions.
Shared with permission from Stephan Rogers of Rogers & Moore, PLLC