Here’s what Gov. Greg Abbott’s health disaster declaration means for Texas

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday did something he said the state has not done in nearly 120 years -- declared a public health disaster.

Abbott said the order, which takes effect at midnight Friday and is in place until April 3, is aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed four lives in the state.

He said the order adopts federal guidelines regarding social distancing at the state level.

Here’s a closer look at what it means:

1. Prohibits gatherings of larger than 10

Abbott said social gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. That is the number that has been put forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said the order does not prohibit domestic travel or prevent people from going to grocery stores, parks and work.

2. Closes bars, gyms

The governor said his order closes all bars and gyms in the state.

Abbott announced Wednesday that restaurants that serve alcohol can deliver those drinks when customers purchase food.

Bars have been closed in Harris County and Houston since Monday, but most liquor and wine stores are still open.

3. Forces restaurants to switch to takeout or delivery

Abbott said people are not allowed to dine at restaurants, but they can get takeout or use a drive-thru service.

This has been the case in Harris County and Houston since Monday.

4. Closes schools

The governor said that all schools in Texas are required to close, but they are encouraged to work with state officials to switch to online learning where available or continue education by other means.

Most school districts in the Houston area have already called off classes until April 10.

5. Prohibits visitors at nursing homes

Abbott said the order prohibits people from visiting nursing homes, retirement homes and other long-term care facilities unless it is for the purpose of providing critical assistance.

Read the documents

To read the full public health disaster declaration document, click here.

To read the governor’s full executive order document, click here.

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Clarification:This story has been updated to clarify the order regarding gatherings of people.

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