Local COVID-19 Update & Help

March 19, 2020

Dear Constituents:

Are you still trying to wrap your head around our temporary new norm of social distancing, take-out meals and virtual learning?  We may wonder is this all necessary but given what we know today and what we have learned from our past—the closures, social distancing, staying home and all the caution is the right thing to do.  So please be patient.  And be grateful we’re in Texas with great leadership and amazing resources to soon put this day behind us.     

The primary goal remains delaying and slowing the spread of the virus to protect our health care system and vulnerable population.  This is a shared responsibility for all of us.  As things are quickly evolving with COVID-19, I wanted to share some resources that I have found informative and helpful. 

The Department of Health Services has many answers to frequently asked questions like what do you do if you’re sick, information on testing and prevention tips.  This will also include updated numbers of cases in Texas.  See link HERE.   DSHS is also regularly sending updates through social media accounts available by following TexasDSHS on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.  Here are a few simple, common sense measures we can all implement to slow the spread.   

How can Texans slow the spread of COVID-19?

  • The next two weeks are critical in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Texans must act now.
  • Stay home as much as possible, especially if you are sick, older, and/or have a medical condition.
  • If you are sick, stay home except to access medical care. If you are able to take care of yourself, stay home. If you need to see your doctor, call ahead.
  • Avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and non-essential trips into public.
  • Cancel events of more than 10 people.
  • Limit close contact (at least six feet) with other people. Employers should allow alternative work options as much as possible.

Who can be tested for COVID-19?

DSHS broadened the public health criteria on March 15th so that people can get tested through the public health system under a variety of scenarios. Public health labs will test individuals (including health care workers) who have fever and/or symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) AND:

  • have had close contact with a confirmed case;
  • have traveled to a location with ongoing transmission of COVID-19;
  • have risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19; or,
  • are hospitalized with fever and symptoms suspicious for COVID-19 even if they do not have any risk factors.

Texas’ response to COVID-19 outbreak has been impressive and ongoing with Governor Abbott declaring a State of Disaster, allowing Texans and local business relief for various hurdles and strains they are facing during this difficult time.  Here is a summary of various waivers and exemptions that have been provided by the State just this week.  I would expect more to follow in the coming weeks as we continue response efforts and discover new challenges.   

Update on State Waivers and Exemptions in Effect

Statewide Television Townhall – March 19th at 7:00 PM

Governor Greg Abbott announced he will be holding a live virtual Town Hall meeting on Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. CT. The Governor will discuss the statewide response to the current coronavirus outbreak and will be joined by top officials from the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, and the Texas Education Agency. For additional information, follow the link here

Impact on May 2020 Local Elections

A proclamation on March 18,  2020 suspending provisions of the Texas Election Code to allow political subdivisions to postpone their 2020 local elections.  This means local governments now have the ability to postpone their May 2, 2020 elections until November 3, 2020. To view the  press release on this topic, please visit here.

TxDPS to Waive Expiration Dates on Certain Licenses and IDs

Department of Public Safety (DPS) will temporarily waive expiration dates for Driver Licenses, Commercial Driver Licenses, and other identification forms. This action falls within the State of Disaster Declaration and is part of the ongoing effort to reduce to spread of COVID-19. This suspension will be in effect until 60 days after DPS provides further public notice that normal Driver License operations have resumed. In addition to this suspension, drive license offices across the state are closing immediately.  This temporary closure will not apply to those seeking an initial Commercial Driver License (CDL).   To view the press release on these topics, please visit announcements here and here

Certain TDI Regulations on Telemedicine Waived

The State has waived certain regulations related to telemedicine care and directed the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) to issue an emergency rule to help patients with state-regulated insurance plans gain telemedicine access so doctors across Texas can help additional patients while mitigating the spread of COVID-19. To view the press release on this topic, please visit here.

Request for Loan Assistance for Small Businesses

On March 17, 2020, the State requested designation from the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Declaration in order for small businesses across the state of Texas to access the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. If granted, the SBA would provide relief through long-term, low-interest loans to qualifying Texas businesses. To view the press release on this topic, please visit here.

Activation of the Texas National Guard

Texas has activated the Texas National Guard so they are prepared to assist with response efforts for COVID-19 if needed. This preparative step will ensure that the Texas National Guard can assist in various forms throughout the state at a moment’s notice. Healthcare workers and first responders who are members of the Texas National Guard are excluded from this activation so that they can continue serving the people of Texas in their respective fields. To view the press release on this topic, please visit here.

TxDMV to Waive Rules on Disability Parking Placards and Vehicle Registration and Titling

Governor Abbott has announced that Texas is waiving certain rules relating to vehicle registration, parking placards for persons with disabilities, and titling to aid the state’s efforts to combat COVID-19. These suspensions will allow Texans to avoid penalties for failure to timely title or register a vehicle, or renew a parking placard. The waivers fall within the actions the are being taken under the State of Disaster, and are part of Texas’ efforts to reduce in-person contact among Texans and slow the spread of COVID-19. To view the press release on this topic, please visit here.

Waiver of Certain Regulations to Allow Delivery of Alcohol from Restaurants and to Support Hospitality Industry

The State issued a waiver that will allow restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with food purchases to patrons, including beer, wine and mixed drinks.  Also Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) will waive certain provisions to allow manufacturers, wholesale and retailers of alcoholic beverages to repurchases or sell back unopened product.  This is an effort to support retailers, restaurants and their employees.  To view the press release on this topic, please visit here

Update from the Texas Education Agency
Following the announcement last week to waive the STAAR test requirement for the 2019-20 school year, Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath sent a letter to school administrators today cancelling the STAAR test for this year. TEA will work with the United States Department of Education to request waivers from federal testing and accountability requirements for the 2019–2020 school year.

To read Commissioner Morath’s letter, follow the link here.

I will do my best to keep you updated as we continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of all Texans.  My office is still fully operational as we work from home and respond to all emails and calls.  If you have any questions or need assistance with state services, please don’t hesitate to call us at 512-463-0738 or email to phil.king@house.texas.gov.  I hope everyone will enjoy the extra time with family and that we will soon have this behind us.

Sincerely,

Phil King
State Representative

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  Psalms 20:7