Updated March 31, 2020

Governor Abbott used his emergency powers on March 19th and again on March 31st to issue an updated statewide executive order regarding COVID-19. 

The executive order limits the number of people who can gather in one place at a time, closes restaurant dining rooms, prohibits drinking in bars, and closes gyms and massage establishments. 

Additionally, the Commissioner of the Department of State Health Services issued a declaration of public health disaster in the State of Texas. Both the executive order and the declaration apply statewide.

The Governor’s executive order took effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 20, 2020.

THLA’s attorneys have reviewed the Governor’s order and the public health disaster declaration, and we have determined lodging properties statewide should take the following actions:

1. Limit the number of people in a meeting room or other confined spaces to no more 10 people per meeting room or other confined space.  This includes hotel lobbies, meeting rooms, banquet rooms, counter-service areas, pre-function areas, enclosed patios, pools (outdoor or indoor), spas, and any other enclosed room or confined space.

2. Close dining areas and do not allow people to gather in bar areas.  This includes breakfast areas, lounges, and dining rooms.  Hotels may continue to provide in-guestroom dining (i.e. room service), food to-go, and beverages (including alcohol) to-go for guests staying in the hotel.

3. Close hotel gyms and massage establishments.

Here is some further information on Frequently Asked Questions:

Our county and city have their own emergency order.  Do we follow the local emergency orders or the Governor’s order?

If you are in an area of Texas subject to a local emergency order, you must follow both the local orders and the Governor’s order.  The provisions from each order that are most restrictive will apply. 

For example, if a local order limits the number of people in a room or enclosed space to 50 persons, you must still follow the Governor’s order that restricts the maximum number of people in a room or enclosed space to 10 persons.

How should I operate my continental breakfast or other F&B operations under the Governor’s order?

Your hotel should close the dining room and close the buffet tables.  Ideally, breakfast or other meals should be either grab-and-go or delivered to guestrooms. 

When faced with making a decision about how to continue your operations, you should choose the option that will provide the most protection for the guest and your staff, and minimize the likelihood of potential spread of the COVID-19 virus. Check if your hotel brand, management company, or ownership group has issued any specific guidance.

  1. Take extra precautions to minimize hotel staff interacting with guests, or guests interacting with each other. 
  2. Maintain social distancing, whereby people keep a 6-foot distance from each other.
  3. If possible, switch to single-use dining products. 
  4. Hotel staff should wear single-use gloves when handling anything a guest may have touched, and be extremely careful about cross-contamination.  Remember, a virus may remain on a glove, just as it would on unwashed bare hands, and gloves should be changed after each interaction.
  5. Frequently clean and sanitize surfaces that are touched by people such as countertops, elevator buttons, handrails, door handles, etc. 
  6. Put up posters and remind staff and guests to wash hands, maintain social distance, and avoid touching their face.

Additionally, we have an updated guide on sanitizing hotels.

How do we serve guests at front desks, and what about cashier stations or retail outlets?

We suggest adopting procedures that minimize interaction between individuals.  The best and safest course of action is to provide items that are grab-and-go only or that are delivered to guestrooms.  If this is not possible, check if your hotel brand, management company, or ownership group has issued any specific guidance.

We suggest hotel staff maintain a 6-foot distance from guests.  Place items on a counter when passing to a guest.  Sanitize surfaces that a guest has touched.  And of course, the guest should not remain in the area after receiving their items.

For front desk clerks, maintain a 6-foot distance from guests.  Encourage digital key or any other methods of check-in and check-out the bypass the need for guests to interact with front desk staff.  Forgo guest signatures on documents and do not pass documents back and forth.  Do not hand room keys directly to the guest.  If possible, do not reuse room-keys.  If that is not possible, wear gloves and sanitize keys before returning them to inventory.  Sanitize surfaces that a guest has touched.

Can I close my hotel restaurant to the outside public and allow hotel guests to dine in the dining room? 

No.  The Governor’s order does not provide for any exceptions for in-house dining.  All restaurants must temporarily close their dining rooms.

Is a bed and breakfast’s dining area considered a “restaurant?”

Under a governor’s emergency powers authority, orders are interpreted broadly, and deference is given to the Governor.  Therefore, the term “restaurant” and the duty to close dining areas should be interpreted to encompass all foodservice operations.

Is our outdoor pool area covered by the order?

Our attorneys believe that it is.  A pool area is a confined space, even if it is outdoors.  In an abundance of caution and to avoid potential liability, we advise against taking any unnecessary risks.  Close the pool area or limit the number of people in the area to no more than 10 individuals at one time, and require social distancing.

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