Gov. Abbott issued another round of executive orders Tuesday afternoon to help contain the spread of COVID-19 in Texas. The total is now seven for the year, all within March, and it’s getting quite difficult for people to keep up. 

Last year, he issued only two executive orders: one in June to renew his disaster declaration for Hurricane Harvey and the other in September to prevent mass shooting attacks.

The latest executive order strengthens the previous six other COVID-19 executive orders he issued this month and still requires people to avoid gathering of 11 or more people, practice social distancing and good hygiene, and shuts down dining and drinking at all bars, public food courts, and restaurants, but doesn’t go so far as shutting down nonessential businesses.

“This executive order shall supersede any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster, but only to the extent that such a local order restricts essential services allowed by this executive order or allows gatherings prohibited by this executive order,” Abbott wrote in his March 30 executive order, which goes into effect April 2 and lasts until April 30. 

In his latest order, Abbott recommends that Texans avoid non-essential gatherings and limit contact with people who are not in the same household. He also exempted religious services conducted in churches from the nonessential activity category, and is allowing people to join together as congregations and houses of worship. 

But like other essential businesses, church leaders must follow President Trump and the CDC’s COVID 19 guidelines and practice good hygiene and environmental cleanliness, as well as implement social distancing guidelines and provide telework (or teleservice) from home if possible. This move for religious organizations may have been in response to several pastors around the country who seem focused on saving souls instead of lives. A Florida megachurch pastor, Rodney Howard-Browne, was arrested Monday for holding two large church services for several hundred people Sunday morning despite local, state, and national declarations preventing large gatherings. The pastor reportedly said that he would only close the church “when the Rapture takes place,” according to a March 31 New York Post report. 

Abbott claimed in a press release for the latest executive order that he was issuing that it because President Trump has finally recognized the seriousness of COVID-19 and addressed it at a Sunday press conference where he announced that the country was looking at between 100,000 to 200,000 COVID-19 deaths if we follow the safety measures like sheltering in place or social distancing. If not, the numbers may be more like 1 to 2 million people.

Abbott called his latest executive order, “Statewide Essential Services and Protocols.” It’s political lingo, and much more appealing to those who despise government intervention in their daily lives. But it’s basically a shelter-in-place order and falls in line with similar orders in Dallas, Denton, and McKinney. 

Some other key takeaways from the governor’s recent executive order also include: 

  • Visiting nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living or long-term care facilities is still prohibited unless providing critical assistance. 
  • Schools will remain close to until early May.

“Social distancing is our best tool in the fight against COVID-19, and the actions we have taken thus far have proven to be effective in limiting the spread of this virus,” Abbott told reporters at his Tuesday afternoon press conference. “I urge my fellow Texans to heed these heightened social distancing directives to protect their health and the health of those around them.” 

Here’s a link to his other orders:

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Christian McPhate

Christian has been working as a freelance journalist in North Texas for more than a decade. His stories have appeared in the Dallas Observer, the Houston Press, and Rolling Stone magazine. He covers a...