State and federal officials are working to keep residents informed as they continue working to protect Americans from Coronavirus.
According to the Center for Disease Control, coronaviruses are common throughout the world and can infect people and animals.
The World Health Organization has now qualified the coronavirus as an international pandemic. And says the large family of viruses can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe conditions.
A novel coronavirus is a new strain and has not been previously identified in humans.
Like the flu, people with severe chronic medical conditions and who are over the age of sixty are at a higher risk of getting sick and developing more severe conditions.
Federal and state officials are working continuously to ensure outbreaks do not occur in U.S. communities.
The following updates are only intended to keep Texas communities informed.
NOT ONLY FOR YOUR PROTECTION BUT FOR THE
SAFETY OF OTHER, PLEASE FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Governor Abbott Prohibits Release Of Individuals In Custody With History Of Offenses Involving Physical Violence
WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on March 13, 2020, certifying under Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in the State of Texas; and
WHEREAS, the Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services has determined that COVID-19 represents a public health disaster within the meaning of Chapter 81 of the Texas Health and Safety Code; and
WHEREAS, I have issued numerous executive orders and suspensions of Texas laws in response to the COVID-19 disaster, aimed at protecting the health and safety of Texans and ensuring an effective response to this disaster; and
WHEREAS, the jail population in Texas presents unique challenges in mitigating against and responding to the spread of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, my office has worked with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and with state and local officials to address these challenges while ensuring public safety for all Texans; and
WHEREAS, several counties are now reportedly considering the broad-scale release of arrested or jailed individuals as a result of COVID-19, including potentially those who have committed felonies, in order to reduce the size of the jail population; and
WHEREAS, such releases from county or municipal jails of those charged with, convicted of, or having a history of offenses involving physical violence or threats of physical violence would not only gravely threaten public safety, but would also hinder efforts to cope with the COVID-19 disaster; and
WHEREAS, a statewide standard is needed to avoid disparate release policies or practices that may endanger the public safety of Texans; and
WHEREAS, the Texas Judicial Council has recently reminded judges that individuals who pose a significant risk to the community or the victim, or who present a significant risk of flight, should be detained, and Texas judges are legally required and oath-bound to determine bail on an individualized basis after considering the factors mandated by Article 17.15 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which does not include the option of releases based solely on concerns or fears surrounding COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, the “governor is responsible for meeting … the dangers to the state and people presented by disasters” under Section 418.011 of the Texas Government Code, and the legislature has given the governor broad authority to fulfill that responsibility; and
WHEREAS, under Section 418.012, the “governor may issue executive orders … hav[ing] the force and effect of law;” and
WHEREAS, under Section 418.016(a), in addition to the other powers given, the “governor may suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business … if strict compliance with the provisions … would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster;” and
WHEREAS, under Section 418.017(a), the “governor may use all available resources of state government and of political subdivisions that are reasonably necessary to cope with a disaster;” and
WHEREAS, under Section 418.018(c), the “governor may control ingress and egress to and from a disaster area and the movement of persons and the occupancy of premises in the area.”
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Texas, do hereby order the following on a statewide basis effective immediately:
Article 17.03 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, and all other relevant statutes and rules relating to personal bonds, are hereby suspended to the extent necessary to preclude the release on personal bond of any person previously convicted of a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence, or of any person currently arrested for such a crime that is supported by probable cause. I hereby order that no authority should release on personal bond any person previously convicted of a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence, or any person currently arrested for such a crime that is supported by probable cause.
Article 17.151 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure is hereby suspended to the extent necessary to prevent any person’s automatic release on personal bond because the State is not ready for trial.
Article 15.21 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure is hereby suspended to the extent necessary to prevent any person’s automatic release on personal bond because the jail of the county where the offense is alleged to have been committed does not take charge of the arrested person before the 11th day after the date the person is committed to the jail of the county in which the person is arrested.
Article 42.032 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, and all other relevant statutes and rules, are hereby suspended to the extent necessary to preclude the grant of commutation of time for good conduct, industry, and obedience to achieve the release of any person who has previously been convicted of or is currently serving a sentence for a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence. I hereby order that no authority should grant the commutation of time for good conduct, industry, and obedience to achieve the release of any person who has previously been convicted of or is currently serving a sentence for a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence. This provision does not preclude the accumulation of credit for good conduct, industry, and obedience during the pendency of this executive order.
Article 42.035 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure is hereby suspended to the extent necessary to preclude any release of a person to an electronic monitoring program, rather than being confined in the jail, if the person has previously been convicted of or is currently serving a sentence for a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence.
Sections 418.1015(b) and 418.108 of the Texas Government Code are hereby suspended to the extent necessary to preclude any county judge or mayor of a municipality, or any emergency management director, from releasing persons under any circumstances inconsistent with this order.
Provided, however, that nothing herein shall prevent the lawful exercise of authority by a county criminal court judge, district judge, or appellate judge in considering release on an individualized basis for health or medical reasons, provided that proper notice is given to the district attorney and an opportunity for hearing is given.
This executive order shall remain in effect and in full force until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by the governor.
Given under my hand this the 29th day of March 2020.
Read the Proclamation.
AG Paxton Files Intervention to Prevent the Release of Over 4,000 Dangerous Individuals in Harris County
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed an intervention to prevent the release of thousands of felony arrestees on personal recognizance bonds, which would allow dangerous criminals to roam freely and commit more crimes during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Just over a week ago, a Harris County judge released a murder suspect on bond because the suspect claimed he feared contracting COVID-19 in jail.
Now Harris County is working with prisoner plaintiffs in a federal case to intentionally release thousands of more suspects on personal recognizance bonds. Harris County refuses to defend its citizens against the proposed mass, unmonitored release of felons, making state intervention necessary to protect Texans from this potential threat.
“Protecting Texans is one of my highest priorities. It is vital that we maintain the integrity of our criminal justice system and continue to enforce state law during this pandemic,” said Attorney General Paxton. “The release of thousands of arrestees justly held for felony crimes would directly endanger the public, and my office will not stand for any action that threatens the health and safety of law-abiding citizens.”
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure dictates that only the Court, before whom a defendant’s criminal case is pending, may release a defendant facing various serious felonies on personal bonds, and mandatory bond conditions must be imposed for certain crimes.
There is no indication that the Court can ensure all mandatory conditions are met and enforced to protect the public from dangerous criminals.
Read a copy of the filing here.
For information on the spread or treatment of Coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Governor Abbott Announces New Processes To Preserve And Extend Child Care Capacity For Front Line Workers
Governor Greg Abbott today waived certain Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) regulations to preserve and extend child care capacity for front line workers.
These waivers will allow TWC the flexibility to respond to child care needs and are part of the Governor’s work through the Supply Chain Strike Force to strengthen child care infrastructure for critical workers during the COVID-19 response.
These waivers ensure that families using child care subsidized through TWC will not lose their slots during this interim period while the state battles COVID-19, and it secures payment to child care providers throughout this time.
“Through these waivers, TWC will be able to better respond to the child care needs of our front line workers in Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “We remain committed to working with TWC and other state entities to ensure Texans serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 response have the support they need.”
Children within TWC’s child care services program will be able to accrue absences due to COVID-19 without impacting ongoing eligibility or provider reimbursements.
TWC will also be able to waive parent share of cost requirements and direct local workforce development boards to make supplemental emergency payments to child care programs to offset payments lost due to COVID-19.
Additionally, these waivers will allow TWC to temporarily broaden the definition of “protective services” to include children of workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.
Governor Abbott Waives COVID-19 Medical Cost-Sharing For Public Safety Employees
AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott has waived certain statutory provisions to ensure public safety employees who contract COVID-19 during the course of their employment will be reimbursed for reasonable medical expenses related to their treatment of COVID-19.
Because the nature of their duties has caused them to increase their risk of contracting COVID-19, the Governor has waived these statutory provisions so that public safety employees who contract COVID-19 are not also financially penalized.
“Texas’ public safety employees are vital to our COVID-19 response,” said Governor Abbott. “These brave men and women are on the front lines and risking potential exposure to keep our communities safe. By waiving these statutory provisions, Texas will ensure that those who may contract COVID-19 will have the support they need to pay for medical expenses.”
Governor Abbott Announces HHSC Request Of Section 1135 Waiver To Support Health Care Workforce In Medicaid Program
AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has submitted a Section 1135 waiver to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requesting flexibility in administering Medicaid to mitigate potential health care workforce shortages during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are committed to supporting our front-line medical workers and reducing regulatory burdens that could otherwise hinder their service to Texans,” said Governor Abbott. “The waiver we are requesting will alleviate potential staffing and resource shortages and ensure our health care workers and facilities are fully equipped to provide care to Texans in need throughout the COVID-19 response.”
“During this unprecedented public health emergency, we need to cut through the red tape and help bolster our health care workforce so that Texas can respond quickly to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak,” said Phil Wilson, HHSC executive commissioner. “We’re working closely with our federal partners and doing everything we can to make sure people get the help they need.”
If approved, the federal flexibilities would include:
- Allowing fully trained, qualified nurse aides to provide home health and hospice services even if they have not been employed and paid as an aide within the preceding 24 months, which will help expand the eligible pool of direct care workers and help providers facing any critical staffing shortages.
- Allowing non-clinical staff to provide feeding assistance to residents in nursing facilities without completing the required 16-hour training course. Since group meals are no longer served due to social distancing, additional feeding assistants are needed for one-on-one assistance. These assistants would be supervised and assigned only to non-complex cases.
- Allowing individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Home and Community-based Services and Intermediate Care Facility programs to temporarily receive their same services in either setting. This will give providers greater flexibility to meet staffing and resource challenges while continuing to provide critical services in both programs.
If granted, the Section 1135 Medicaid waiver flexibilities would remain in place for as long as necessary during the public health emergency.
Governor Abbott Announces Expanded Health Care Capacities In Texas, Issues Executive Orders To Expand Quarantines And Protect Public Safety
Governor Greg Abbott today held a press conference at the State Capitol where he provided new information on the state’s health care capacity and issued additional Executive Orders. The Governor announced that hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients have doubled over the past week.
He also detailed the joint effort between the state, the Texas Military Department (TMD), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to identify and equip additional locations to serve as health care facilities in the event that hospital capacity is exhausted.
The first of these sites will be the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.
The Governor was joined for the press conference by Major General Tracy Norris of the Texas Army National Guard, USACE Southwest Division Commander and Chief Engineer Brigadier General Paul Owen, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, and Supply Chain Strike Force member and former State Representative John Zerwas, MD.
“While hospitals will remain the primary location to treat and care for those in need, we are ensuring that Texas is prepared for any possible scenario in which current hospital capacity is exhausted,” said Governor Abbott. “This joint initiative with the Texas Military Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will expand the care capacity in communities across Texas.”
During the press conference, the Governor issued two new Executive Orders to protect public safety and further combat the spread of COVID-19 in Texas.
In the first Executive Order (GA-12) announced today, the Governor mandated a 14-day quarantine for road travelers arriving in Texas from any location in Louisiana.
The self-quarantine procedure will mirror the process outlined in the Governor’s previous Executive Order requiring mandatory self-quarantine for air travelers from the New York Tri-State Area and New Orleans, Louisiana.
This mandated quarantine will not apply to travel related to commercial activity, military service, emergency response, health response, or critical infrastructure functions.
In the second Executive Order (GA-13) announced today, the Governor prohibited the release of individuals in custody for or with a history of offenses involving physical violence or the threat of physical violence.
This Executive Order comes in response to concerns of the release or anticipated release of individuals because of COVID-19 who are deemed a danger to society.
The Governor also issued a proclamation regarding his prior Executive Order mandating a self-quarantine for individuals arriving from the New York Tri-State Area and New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Executive Order now includes air travelers arriving from the following states and cities:
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Chicago, Illinois
- Detroit, Michigan
- Miami, Florida
Governor Abbott Removes Licensing Barriers For Advance Practice Registered Nurses
Governor Greg Abbott has waived certain regulations allowing for an expedited licensing reactivation process for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) in Texas.
Under these waivers, an APRN with a license that has been inactive for more than two years, but less than four years, will not have to pay a reactivation fee, complete continuing education credits, or complete the current practice requirements.
For APRNs with a license that has been inactive for more than four years, the reactivation fee and continuing education requirements will be waived.
“Our frontline healthcare workers play a crucial role in Texas’ response to COVID-19, and we are working to reduce barriers for former nurses who are ready and willing to serve in our communities,” said Governor Abbott. “By expediting the process for APRNs to reactivate their license, Texas is allowing more healthcare professionals to reenter the workforce and assist in our effort to combat COVID-19.”
Governor Abbott Waives Certain Licensing Regulations For Pharmacists, Technicians
Governor Greg Abbott has waived certain licensing renewal regulations for Texas pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy technician trainees.
With these waivers, the Governor is temporarily extending expiration dates for licenses and temporarily suspending continuing education requirements for pharmacists.
“As our state responds to COVID-19, it is important that Texans continue to have access to the services they depend on to meet their daily needs,” said Governor Abbott. “With these waivers, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can continue to meet the needs of their fellow Texans without potential delays caused by an expired license.”
Governor Abbott Announces National Guard Deployment in Support of COVID-19 Response
As part of the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19, Governor Greg Abbott today announced the deployment of three National Guard Joint Task Force Brigades. The 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and the 176th Engineer Brigade will operate ten general support units located throughout the state.
“Whether it’s overseas combat, major storms, or deadly viruses, the Texas National Guard is always quick to defend and serve their fellow Texans,” said Governor Abbott. “Texans can be grateful that these troops are now standing their post alongside healthcare professionals and first responders on the front lines of this crisis.”
The Governor has ordered an initial focus on two critical missions that will directly benefit from Texas National Guard’s unparalleled logistics capabilities, medical expertise, communications support, infrastructure maintenance, and transportation assets: assisting drive through testing sites and bolstering the state’s healthcare infrastructure.
Over the past week, Guard members have practiced erecting and running drive through testing site locations alongside medical staff to ensure a well-coordinated process that allows Texans to access COVID-19 screenings in a safe, efficient way that also limits contact with potentially infected members of the public.
The Guard is also rolling out support for the state’s healthcare infrastructure with medical providers, equipment, and supplies needed to provide access to care.
As the response advances, Guardsmen will continue working with partners at the local, state, and national levels to identify and develop additional locations that can be converted to healthcare facilities.
“We are citizen soldiers and we find our highest calling in serving our fellow citizens, no matter where duty calls us,” said Major General Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas and commander of the Texas National Guard. “This will be no easy task but we have faced difficult times before. With the commitment of our soldiers and support of the community, we will show the world that we are Texas strong and Texas proud, and together we will overcome this challenge.”
Governor Abbott also stressed that these taskings will not diminish the Guard’s ability to meet operational commitments including the Texas border mission and overseas deployments.
To ensure responding Guard members are healthy, trained medical staff will be attached to each unit and provide screenings before each Guard member is approved for the mission.
Any Guard member showing signs of illness will receive treatment and the needed resources to recover while following all requirements outlined by the CDC.
This measure will keep responding units healthy and reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.