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Jun 22

June 22, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #69

Posted on June 22, 2020 at 4:27 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates

 

What did the governor say today (June 22) at his COVID-19 press conference?

 

The governor discussed recent increases in COVID-19 cases in Texas, and his recommendations for what Texans can do to respond to the increases. These are the key takeaways about what he said:

 

-COVID-19 remains a fast-spreading virus until treatments are available.

-“We must find ways to return to our daily routines and coexist with COVID-19.”

-The early goal was to prevent hospitals from being overrun. “We succeeded, and hospitals have abundant capacity.”

-As we opened up, we established safety protocols to minimize spread. If they are followed, they will reduce the spread. They include: (1) at-risk persons should stay home; (2) hands should be frequently sanitized; (3) persons should maintain safe distances from others if they must go out; and (4) if people do go out, they should wear a mask.

 

The governor further said that “I’ve said all along that if positivity or hospitalization rates increase too much, we have strategies to reduce the spread…closing down Texas again will always be the last option.” He mentioned that those metrics are increasing, and that “COVID-19 is spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas.”

 

He closed by saying that “I know that wearing a mask is inconvenient and some people believe it is an infringement of freedom, but I also know that wearing a mask will help us keep Texas open.” In response to a media question, he also said that the City of Austin is different than Austin County, and that flexibility is key in a state the size of Texas.

 

As always, city officials can visit open.texas.gov to learn more about prevention methods.

 

What’s the latest with regard to county authority to require face masks?

 

The Harris County attorney requested an attorney general opinion to answer four questions relating to county-owned buildings and county courthouses. The response should be instructive with regard to city facilities as well. The 18-page request includes the following questions:

 

1. Given a county judge’s authority under her emergency powers to control the movement of persons and the occupancy of premises in her county during a declared state of disaster, may a county judge require any person entering a courthouse or other county-owned or controlled building in the county to wear a facial covering in those county buildings during the COVID-19 disaster? If so, and the person fails to wear a facial covering, may a county judge bar entry to or order removal of that person from the courthouse or other county-owned or controlled building? What other remedies, if any, are alternatively available to a county judge to protect the health and safety of county employees, customers and the public when a person declines to wear a facial covering in a courthouse and other buildings owned or controlled by a county?

 

2. Given a commissioners court’s authority to regulate the use of and control county buildings, may a commissioners court require any person entering a courthouse or other county-owned or controlled building in the county to wear a facial covering in those county buildings during the COVID-19 disaster? If so, and a person declines to wear a facial covering, what other remedies, if any, are alternatively available to a commissioners court to protect the health and safety of county employees, customers and the public?

 

3. Given the Office of Court Administration’s guidance and the powers vested in a court to exercise its jurisdiction and enforce its lawful orders, may any court presiding over a courtroom in a county owned or controlled courthouse in the county require any person who enters the courthouse to wear a facial covering while in that courthouse during the COVID-19 disaster? Does a court’s authority extend beyond the courtroom to allow the entry of an order requiring facial coverings throughout the entire courthouse? If so, and a person declines to wear a facial covering, what remedies are permitted?

 

4. In the event of the issuance of conflicting orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, whose order regarding the use of facial coverings outside a courtroom, jury room, and judge’s chambers in a county owned courthouse controls - the order of a county judge, a commissioners court or a judge presiding over a courtroom in the courthouse?

 

The League will report on the opinion when it is issued.

 

Further Updates

 

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

 

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