Several new executive orders have been issued requiring the wearing of face masks and limiting certain business activities in the last 24-36 hours by state, county and city officials in response to the dramatic rise in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in many areas across Texas and the increasing pressure being put on the state’s hospital system. At this time, these orders do not apply to houses of worship, but Central Texas Conference churches are strongly encouraged to follow the face covering orders as closely as possible and to keep a close watch on news and information being put out by civil authorities as this situation is evolving rapidly.
On Thursday, June 25, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley issued an executive order that requires masks/face coverings to be worn at all Tarrant County businesses and outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people. The executive order goes into effect at 6 p.m. today (June 26) and will run through 6 a.m. Aug. 3. Businesses are also required to adopt a Health and Safety Policy that requires employees and visitors to wear face coverings.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who joined Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter and several doctors and health officials at Judge Whitley’s press conference announcing the Tarrant County order, issued a similar executive order for the city of Fort Worth a few hours later.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Tarrant County order does not include churches, which are exempted under a previous order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The official announcement on the city of Fort Worth’s website also confirmed that the “…order does not include churches.”
Earlier today, Governor Greg Abbott today issued an executive order limiting certain businesses and services as part of the state’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. The order includes the following:
All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at Noon today. These businesses may remain open for delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Restaurants may remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy, beginning Monday, June 29, 2020.
Rafting and tubing businesses must close.
Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.
Though churches are technically exempt from these orders, all CTC churches are encouraged to comply with the regulations stipulated in the orders to help cease the rampant spread of COVID-19. The new county and city orders were prompted by a spike in coronavirus cases in Tarrant County, which on Thursday reached 10,363 cases and includes 218 deaths. Public health officials are warning of “substantial” viral spread. Gov. Abbott’s decision comes as the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of hospitalizations have increased and the positivity rate in Texas increased above 10%, which the Governor previously stated would lead to further preventative action.
As a reminder, it is the official policy of the Central Texas Conference that masks should be worn in church buildings during in-person worship. To review all the “returning to in-person worship guidelines” from Bishop Lowry and the Cabinet, visit ctcumc.org/COVID-19-cabinet-guidelines.