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Apr 17

April 17, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #25

Posted on April 17, 2020 at 5:10 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


Has the President announced new guidelines for “Opening up America Again”?


Yes. His Opening Up America Again Guidelines provide metrics for each state’s governor to use when deciding if, when, and how to begin re-opening their economies. Each city official should carefully review the guidelines and should also keep in mind that they are just that: guidelines. Unless and until the governor, a county judge, or a mayor imposes them by order, they are arguably not enforceable.


The key features of the guidelines for states to consider include testing and contact tracing, healthcare system capacity, and appropriate planning. The guidelines include a “phased” approach, which include the following (which is a very brief summary):


All Phases: 


-Individuals should practice good hygiene and sick people should stay home.

-Employers should develop and implement appropriate policies, in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices, regarding: (1) social distancing and protective equipment; (2) temperature checks; (3) testing, isolating, and contact tracing; (4) sanitation use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas; and (5) business travel.

-Employers should: (1) monitor workforce for indicative symptoms and not allow symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider; and (2) develop and implement policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing following employee COVID positive test.


The following phases should be implemented by states only following “gating criteria,” such as a state having: (1) a downward trajectory of cases; (2) hospitals that are not in crisis care mode; and (3) healthcare workers that are subjected to a robust testing program.


Phase I: Individuals


-Avoid SOCIALIZING in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing (e.g., receptions and trade shows).

-MINIMIZE NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.


Phase I: Employers


-Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.


-Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact or enforce strict social distancing protocols.

-Minimize NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL and adhere to CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.

-Strongly consider SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS for personnel who are members of a VULNERABLE POPULATION.


Phase II: Individuals


-All individuals, WHEN IN PUBLIC (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others. Social settings of more than 50 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.



Phase II: Employers


-Continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.

-Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce moderate social distancing protocols.


-Strongly consider SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS for personnel who are members of a VULNERABLE POPULATION.


Phase III: Individuals


Individuals should:

-LOW-RISK POPULATIONS should consider minimizing times spent in crowded environments.


Phase III: Employers


Employers may:

-Resume unrestricted staffing or worksites

-LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit- down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under limited physical distancing protocols.


Again, the above are merely guidelines. What happens in Texas will depend on the actions of the governor and local officials.


Has the governor announced new guidelines related to opening the economy?


Yes, at a press conference today (April 17), the governor announced that he is issuing a series of executive orders outlining how to begin re-opening the Texas economy with guidance from healthcare and business leaders. He will also be issuing additional orders to begin a phased opening of businesses. 


The governor stated that the stay home/work home provisions of GA-14 are still in effect, and the new orders provide additional exceptions to it. He will consider later whether to eliminate or reduce GA-14. Of note, schools (including colleges) will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.


The orders are as follows:


GA-17: Creates a statewide Strike Force to Open Texas, which “will work towards a medical architecture to test and trace, while gradually and safely returning to work and other activities.” The strike force will rely on an advisory committee of business and community leaders. The strike force has created a web page with more information.


GA-16: Relates to the safe, strategic reopening of select services and activities in Texas. This order establishes a temporary "Retail-To-Go" model that will allow retail outlets in Texas to reopen beginning Friday, April 24. Under this model, reopened establishments are required to deliver items to customer's cars, homes, or other locations to minimize contact.


Under this Executive Order, schools — including public, private, and higher education institutions — will remain closed for the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers may go into the classroom for video instruction, to perform administrative duties, and clean out their classrooms.


GA-15: relates to hospital capacity and personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for the COVID-19 response. The order loosens restrictions on surgeries put in place by Governor Abbott in March. Beginning at 11:59 p.m. on April 21 through 11:59 p.m. on May 8, all licensed health care professionals and all licensed health care facilities must continue to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary to diagnose or correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without timely performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death as determined by a patient's physician. Exceptions now include:


-Any procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the PPE needed to cope with COVID-19; or

-Any surgery or procedure performed in a licensed health care facility that has certified in writing to Texas HHSC both (1) that it will reserve at least 25 percent of its hospital capacity for treatment of COVID-19 patients, accounting for the range of clinical severity of COVID-19 patients, and (2) that it will not request any PPE from any public source — whether federal, state, or local — for the duration of the COVID-19 disaster. 


The Governor today also directed state parks to reopen on Monday, April 20, with strict guidelines to reduce transmission of COVID-19 – including requiring visitors to wear face coverings, maintain a six-foot distance from individuals outside of their party, and prohibiting the gathering of groups larger than five.


On Monday April 27, the governor will announce additional ways to open Texas. In the next 10 days, the strike force will prepare a phased in strategy considering testing and hospital preparedness.


Has the U.S. Department of Homeland Security updated its essential business guidance?


Yes. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released Version 3.0 of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers list. Version 3.0 provides clarity around a range of positions needed to support the critical infrastructure functions laid out in the original guidance.


According to CISA:


“This iteration includes a reorganization of the section around Healthcare and Public Health and more detail to clarify essential workers; emphasis for Emergency Medical Services workers; and adds lawyers and legal aid workers.


Also included is language focused on sustained access and freedom of movement; a reference to the CDC guidance on safety for critical infrastructure workers; and a statement saying sick employees should avoid the workplace and the workforce.


In worker categories, all references to “employees” or “contractors” have been changed to “workers.” Other additions include a reference to the USCG Marine Safety Information Bulletin on essential maritime workers; clarified language including vehicle manufacture; and many other small changes to clarify language.


CISA issued initial guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers on March 19, which was developed to help state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities as they decide who to allow freedom of movement in areas that are under restrictions such as shelter-in-place or quarantine. That initial guidance was developed with input from our government and industry partners, on the assumption that we would need to update the guidance as we received additional feedback from stakeholders.


The Guide continues to be a resource for state and local decision makers and is in no way a binding document. Ultimately, all final decisions rest with state and local authorities, who must use their own judgment to balance public health and safety with the need to maintain critical infrastructure.


The degree to which state and local orders have leveraged our guidance when defining essential workers is encouraging. A common national picture will ultimately benefit us all. We hope this updated Guide helps as your communities grapple with the impacts of COVID-19. Please direct any questions to”


In addition, the Texas Department of Emergency Management has a web page where businesses can inquire of the Texas attorney general as to whether they are essential.


Further Updates


We have a state correctional facility in or near our city. What precautions are being taken by TDCJ?


Over 100 cities have state prisons in or near them. City officials want to be sure that appropriate control measures are being enforced at the prison to ensure that guards and civilian workers don’t spread COVID-19 beyond prison facilities. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the agency has taken numerous precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus within its system, including equipping staff with PPE, distributing 246,000 cloth masks to inmates and employees, and following CDC guidelines that are specific to correctional facilities. The TDCJ is communicating daily with state lawmakers and local officials, and more information is available at City officials with questions can contact Jason Clark, TDCJ Chief of Staff, at


What can I do as a mayor (or any other city official) if I missed the deadline to sign on to the letter to the Texas congressional delegation asking for additional direct funding for cities?


If you did not have a chance to submit your name to be included in the letter to the Texas congressional delegation supporting the House version of the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, we urge you to visit with your congressional office to offer your support for direct funding to all Texas Cities. More cosponsors are being added every day. In addition, a similar bill will be introduced shortly in the Senate.


The previously-passed CARES Act allows its funds to be used for "necessary expenditures." The Coronavirus Community Relief Act bill changes expenditures to “costs,” and would allow for costs to include – but not be limited to – lost revenue:


“(d) USE OF FUNDS.- A unit of local government shall use the funds provided under a payment made under this section to cover only those costs of the unit of local government that-

(1) are costs that-

(A) are reasonably deemed by the unit of local government to be necessary; and

(B) directly or indirectly involve, relate to, are, have been, or will be incurred due to, or are, have been, or will be a response to circumstances caused by, the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19); and

(2) were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.


(1) COSTS.-The term 'Costs' includes but is not limited to lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, and increases in costs reasonably believed to be the direct or indirect result of, or direct or indirect responses to circumstances caused by, the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19).”


The bill also provides flexibility for governments with a population of less than 500,000 to reallocate the money:


“To the extent that a unit of local government does not need all of the funds paid to it, it may transfer such funds to another unit of local government in the State for uses in paragraph (1) of this subsection and such transfer is deemed to be a cost of the transferor.”


If you are unsure who represents you in Washington, D.C., or need additional guidance, please contact Monty Wynn with TML’s legislative department at


Have other federal stimulus funds been made available?


Yes. Some of these may be limited in scope, but the League will present information on any grant programs that we receive: 


-the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences has announced funding rules for the first $30 million of the $50 million it was allotted through the CARES Act for digital inclusion. The first phase will be awarded to states for use on digital inclusion at their discretion. IMLS indicated that existing funding, along with the other CARES Act funds, will be made available directly to museums and libraries for digital inclusion efforts at a later date.


-USDA announced a new round of Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant funding, authorized by the CARES Act. The $20 million will be made available on a competitive basis as grants for broadband access, audio/visual equipment, computer and network hardware, training, and technical assistance, in support of distance learning or telemedicine activities. Applications will be accepted through July 13, and further information is available on USDA's Rural Development program site.


Has the Environmental Protection Agency created a website with resources for COVID-19?


Yes. The EPA has created a website with COVID-19 resources for state, local, and tribal agencies and associations. It includes links to information about items of interest to cities like water utility resources and frequent questions on grant issues in response to coronavirus


Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?


TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.