Gov. Greg Abbott announces the arrival of about 2,500 COVID-19 test kits in Arlington (copy)

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference March 18 at Arlington's Office of Emergency Management. Abbott said he would like to hear from local leaders before announcing any new state wide orders.

Four executive orders and a public health disaster in the state of Texas were announced by Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday in response to COVID-19.

The disaster declaration, issued by John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, gives state and local officials important tools to effectively respond to the coronavirus outbreak. This includes allowing those authorities to invoke the courts to enforce quarantines of individuals, collect disease and health information and share that information with law enforcement personnel and first responders as appropriate, and more, according to an Office of the Texas Governor news release.

The first executive order declares every person in Texas shall avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, effective 11:59 p.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. April 3, Abbott said. A second order mandates all people avoid food courts, gyms and dining in at bars and restaurants. All restaurants will move to drive-thru, pickup and delivery only.

On Wednesday, Abbott issued a waiver allowing bars and restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with food purchases. This includes beer, wine and mixed drinks.

Tarrant County and the city of Arlington have already ordered restaurants to close dining areas and move to drive-thru and to-go services, according to a previous Shorthorn article. Tarrant County also ordered commercial amusement establishments such as movie theaters to close completely.

Abbott said a third executive order will also prevent people from visiting nursing homes, retirement centers and long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.

The fourth order declares all schools in Texas shall be temporarily closed with education continuing online or additional educational options, he said.

UT System academic institutions have already been directed to transition to online-only classes and postpone spring commencement ceremonies, according to a previous Shorthorn article.

Abbott said this is not a shelter-in-place order; people can still visit places like grocery stores, gas stations and banks. All critical infrastructure will remain open and operational, and domestic travel is not restricted, he said.


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