No curfew in governor’s latest COVID-19 protocols

By Anita Miller
Protocols ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott that went into effect Wednesday won’t change the everyday lives of most Hays Count residents with one exception: There is no mention of a curfew, as was mandated by Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra.

COVID -19 CDC photo

That means people who are on “essential business” will be able to travel no matter the time of night or day. According to Mark Kennedy, general counsel for Hays County, “The governor’s order prohibits local orders that further restrict essential services allowed by the governor’s order. If a person needs to utilize an essential service, no matter the time of day, that person may do so. We assume that most essential services will not be available in the middle of the night.”

Abbott’s order “renews and amends” his previous orders and also supersedes those of cities and counties. It follows “federal social distancing guidelines for COVID-19, including closing schools and instructing Texans to avoid eating or drinking at bars or restaurants.” Its definition of “essential services and activities” is modeled on guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security, which include “healthcare, grocery stores, banking and financial services, utilities, child care for essential services employees and government services.” It also lists April 30 as the expiration date for current protocols.
Notably, Abbott’s order classifies religious services as “essential,” as are hunting, fishing and “engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.” 
Among businesses and services deemed nonessential are gyms and “massage establishments,” as well as tattoo studios, piercing studios and cosmetology salons. 
Also under Abbott’s order, prohibitions remain on visiting nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities: and “long-term care facilities” unless to provide critical assistance. The order also closes schools to in-person attendance until at least May 4.
“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 said as he issued the order.
 “Now it is time to redouble our efforts to reduce further exposure as much as possible and flatten the curve. As with all the actions the state is taking, the essential services and activities protocols is informed by the expertise and guidance of the CDC as well as state and local health officials. I urge my fellow Texans to heed these heightened social distancing directives to protect their health and the health of those around them. By following these guidelines, we will limit the spread of COVID-19 and overcome this challenge together.”
After Becerra ordered the curfew, Sheriff Gary Cutler issued a statement saying he disagreed with that call, but that his deputies would not use the travel restrictions to target motorists unless there was some other cause for suspicion or concern.
Cutler declined to respond to Abbott’s order.

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