AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on July 2 issued an executive order to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus while keeping Texas as open as possible for business.
With few exceptions, the order requires all Texans to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases.
Abbott also issued a proclamation giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on some outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people and mandating that with certain exceptions people cannot be in groups larger than 10 and must maintain six feet of social distancing from others.
“We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another — and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces,” Abbott said.
Cumulative figures posted July 5 by the Texas Department of State Health Services showed some 195,239 people in Texas diagnosed with COVID-19 and 2,637 confirmed deaths resulting from the disease.
Wear-mask videos posted
The governor’s office released a video of Abbott to coincide with his July 2 executive order plus two more public service announcements imploring Texans to step up efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
SNAP deadline extended
Gov. Abbott on June 29 extended the deadline for families to apply for the federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program to July 31.
“Ensuring access to healthy food in our communities is an important part of our response to this pandemic,” Abbott said.
This one-time benefit of $285 per eligible child can be used in the same way as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food benefits to pay for groceries. Eligible families include those with children who lost access to free or reduced-price school meals through the National School Lunch Program due to school closures.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission partnered with the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Education Agency to launch the $1 billion federal program on June 1 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Winner to face incumbent
In the top spot on the July 14 Democratic primary election runoff ballot are state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and former U.S. Air Force officer Mary “MJ” Hegar of Round Rock. The winner will face incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the Nov. 3 election.
West, an attorney whose current term as a state senator will expire in 2022, has been a member of the body since 1993. He serves as vice chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and is a member of Senate committees on Administration, Education and Finance.
Hegar has 12 years of military experience, including three tours as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan, where she flew combat search and rescue and medical evacuation missions. She is a recipient of the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor.
Cornyn, of San Antonio, a member of the U.S. Senate since 2002, previously served as an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court from 1992 to 1997 and as Texas attorney general from 1999 to 2002.
Revenue total is down
State sales tax revenue totaled $2.67 billion in June, an amount 6.5% less than the amount reported for the month of June 2019, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said on July 1.
The decline in collections was driven principally by steep drops in remittances from oil- and gas-related sectors. Collections from the construction and amusement service sectors also were down sharply, Hegar said.
However, “While collections from restaurants also were depressed, the extent of the decline was checked by increased takeout and delivery sales,” Hegar said. “And retail trade receipts rose significantly, buoyed by increased online shopping and building material purchases, as business premises were modified for COVID-19 precautions.”
The majority of June sales tax revenue is based on sales made in May and remitted to the agency in June.
For more stories like this, see July 9 issue or subscribe online.
By Ed Sterling, member services director for the Texas Press Association