During a news conference Thursday, March 19, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a public health disaster in Texas and issued an executive order
that imposes statewide restrictions on the size of public gatherings and more through April 3 to combat the continuing spread of COVID-19. Confirmed cases of coronavirus and deaths from the disease continue to rise throughout the state. Gov. Abbot stated that there were more than 140 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Texas as of 12 p.m. Thursday. Tarrant County reported that the number of positive COVID-19 cases more than doubled Thursday, jumping from 9 to 19.
As part of the executive order, Gov. Abbott declared that every person in Texas must avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people. The guidance from Bishop Lowry and the Cabinet throughout this ongoing health crisis has been that the decision to suspend in-person worship and activities rests with the pastor and lay leadership of the local churches. This new executive order, which goes into effect at midnight Friday, supersedes that direction.
“The safety of all in this matter calls for us to follow and uphold the orders and mandates of civil authorities – local, county, state and federal,” said Bishop Lowry. “With Gov. Abbot’s order to limit public gatherings to 10 or fewer, it is vital that we seek out and try new ways of worshipping and reaching out to our communities as we do all we can to help limit the spread of this serious and deadly pandemic."
Recently Rev. Mike Ramsdell, executive director of the Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth and the New Church Start District Superintendent, and Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory, Central District Superintendent, collaborated on some simple, yet effective ideas to keep churches connected, engaged and vital in this uncertain season. Those are available here
and there are many more resources available on the CTC’s COVID-19 Resources website
“Our buildings may be closing, and our regular services suspended for a while, but the church is very much open.” Bishop Lowry noted. “In this season of crisis, we must continue to be guided by faith and not driven by fear. Breathe Deep. Jesus is still Lord.”
The order is not a shelter in place order and does not stop people from going to parks, banks or grocery stores and domestic travel remains unrestricted, but travelers are highly recommend to avoid large groups.
Along with the mandate that every person in Texas must avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people, the order requires that the "dine-in" areas of restaurants, bars, clubs and more must close. Restaurants can still provide drive-thru, takeout or delivery services. This also applies to church coffee bars and food outreach programs.
Other places where people would gather, such as gyms and entertainment venues, shall also be closed.
All schools will be closed or, in some cases, remain closed to prevent further spread. Schools have already begun shifting to online means of education.
Non-essential visitors at nursing homes, retirement centers or long-term health facilities will not be allowed during this order.
Government entities and businesses will continue providing essential services.
Offices and workplaces may remain open, but it is highly encouraged that only essential employees report to the place of work. Where feasible, business and organizations should allow and encourage employees to work from home and other remote sites. And employees who do go to work should practice both good hygiene as well as best practices in order to minimize exposure to and transmission of COVID-19.
This order goes into effect at midnight Friday, March 20 and will last until midnight on April 3. Click here to read the official order from Gov. Abbott