Abbott issues executive order to limit personal interactions, closes public schools through May 4

Hannah Williford

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday to limit personal interactions except for essential activities in the State of Texas.

Abbott said his order is in line with national guidelines and excludes activities such as working for essential services, going to the grocery store, bank or gas station, being outside for activities such as fishing and hunting and religious services, provided they respect social distancing guidelines.

“We encourage people to continue to maintain active lifestyles, but do so in ways that maintain the distancing practices that have been articulated by the president and the CDC,” Abbott said.

Local jurisdictions who have put in place stricter orders are still able to keep those orders in place, Abbott said.

Abbott said public schools will remain closed until at least May 4.

“For a little bit more time, we all must remain apart so that we can come back together,” Mike Morath, Texas Education Agency commissioner said. “Our educators working all over the state of Texas, working with love and diligence, are doing everything in their power to support parents.”

The executive order will be punishable with a fine or jail time up to 180 days, and Abbott said those found in violation can be subject to a quarantine.

“We cannot forfeit the gains we have already made by cutting short our task,” Abbott said.

As of Tuesday, there have been 3,266 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Texas across 122 counties. Abbott said 41 Texans have died from COVID-19, but only 2.4% of the hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients are currently occupied.

“The efforts of Texans across the state have slowed the spread of coronavirus,” Abbott said. “But … we are not yet done with our response.”

Abbott was joined by House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Morath, Nim Kidd, Texas Division of Emergency Management chief, and Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner.