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Greater Houston Partnership Cautions on Reopening of Office Spaces

Published May 01, 2020 by A.J. Mistretta

HOUSTON (May 1, 2020) – The Greater Houston Partnership today released a statement on behalf of its president and CEO, Bob Harvey regarding confusion surrounding Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Texas Executive Order GA-18 and whether it calls for the return of office workers to the workplace.

“We are suggesting to Houston companies that they delay the return of office workers to the workplace for the time being. Many office-based employees have been able to carry out their tasks remotely for some time now, and as we enter this gradual process of reopening, there is no need to add ‘fuel to the fire’ when it comes to COVID-19 transmission. 

“Governor Abbott is clear in his executive order that we all should minimize contact with people outside our household unless we are providing or obtaining essential or reopened services, and specifically says employees ‘should work from home if possible.’ To me, unless you are an essential worker at one of these companies and you need to be physically present to do your job, commonsense would say you should continue teleworking.”

GA-18 Details
On Monday, April 27, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Texas Executive Order GA-18 to begin the process of reopening the Texas economy. 

According to GA-18, “…every person in Texas shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services or reopened services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.”

The order continues, “In providing or obtaining essential services or reopened services, people and businesses should follow the minimum standard health protocols recommended by DSHS, found at www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus and should implement social distancing, work from home if possible, and practice good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation.”

Defining Essential Services and Employees
To aid businesses in their efforts to determine if they are an “essential service or reopened service,” the Texas Department of Emergency Management established a webpage to guide that determination.

“Essential services” as defined by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have been permitted to operate on an emergency basis since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Abbott’s order adds a list of “reopened” services as including restaurants, retail, movie theaters, malls, museums and libraries.

CISA’s COVID-19 guidance regarding the workers working for essential companies states, “Workers should be encouraged to work remotely when possible and focus on core business activities. In-person, non-mandatory activities should be delayed until the resumption of normal operations.”

Clarification Regarding Persons Working in an Office
In his list of reopened services designated in GA-18, Governor Abbott states, “Services provided by an individual working alone in an office.” During his announcement on Monday, the Governor stated that “sole practitioners” would be able to reopen.  There was no reference to individual offices in a larger office environment.
 

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Greater Houston Partnership
The Greater Houston Partnership works to make Houston one of the best places to live, work and build a business. As the economic development organization for the Houston region, the Partnership champions growth across 11 counties by bringing together business and civic-minded leaders who are dedicated to the area’s long-term success. Representing 1,100 member organizations and approximately one-fifth of the region’s workforce, the Partnership is the place business leaders come together to make an impact. Learn more at Houston.org.

CONTACT:    

Vice President, Communications         
(c) 504-450-3516 | amistretta@houston.org

Maggie Martin 
Senior Manager, Communications         
mmartin@houston.org 

 

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