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Coronavirus Information

Posted on: September 17, 2020

Texas Expands Capacities for Restaurants and Other Service Industries

Seal of the Governor of Texas

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued two Executive Orders on Sept. 17 expanding occupancy levels for restaurants;, retail stores; office buildings; manufacturing facilities; gyms and exercise facilities and classes; museums; and libraries, as well as reauthorizing elective surgeries for a majority of the state of Texas. The governor also announced new guidance related to visitations at nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state.

In addition, the governor implemented the use of reliable, data driven hospitalization metrics used by doctors and medical experts to help guide the state’s ongoing efforts to contain COVID-19 and expand occupancy for businesses and services. This metric focuses on areas with high hospitalizations — referring to any Trauma Service Area (TSA) that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of all hospitalized patients exceeds 15%, until such time as the TSA has seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of all hospitalized patients is 15% or less. A current list of areas with high hospitalizations will be maintained at the state’s Department of Health and Human Services website.

Using this metric, 19 of the 22 TSAs in Texas qualify to increase occupancy levels to 75% for restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms, exercise facilities and classes, museums, and libraries beginning Sept. 21. In addition, these 19 TSAs also can resume elective surgeries. Three of the 22 TSAs (S-Victoria, T-Laredo, and V-Lower Rio Grande Valley) must remain at 50% occupancy and continue postponing elective surgeries until the hospitalization metric requirements are met. These three TSAs contain the following counties: Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca, Victoria, Jim Hogg, Webb, Zapata, Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy.

For further details on minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services, as well as additional guidelines for businesses, visit the Open Texas website. Details on recovery resources for Texas businesses can be found on the COVID-19 resources webpage.

Nursing Home, Long-Term Care Facility Visitations

The Governor announced new visitation guidance for eligible nursing homes, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities, home and community-based service providers, and inpatient hospice effective Thursday, Sept. 24. Under the new rules, residents will be allowed to designate up to two essential family caregivers who will be provided necessary training to allow them to safely go inside a facility for a scheduled visit, including in the resident’s room, to help ensure their loved one’s physical, social, and emotional needs are being met. Designated caregivers will not be required to maintain physical distancing, but only one caregiver can visit a resident at a time.

A long-term care facility resident (or legal representative) can designate the essential caregiver, who can be a family member, friend, or other individual. Facilities are required to train essential caregivers on the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other infection control measures. Proper PPE must be used at all times during these scheduled visits, and the caregiver must test negative for COVID-19 within the previous 14 days before the initial visit.

For general visitors who are not a designated essential caregiver, these updated emergency rules will allow approved facilities to schedule outdoor no contact visits, open window visits, or indoor visitation with the use of plexiglass safety barriers to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Physical contact between residents and general visitors is not permitted. Facilities also must continue to meet all additional visitation requirements outlined in the emergency rules.

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