07.03.20: Statewide mask order in place; have a safe July 4th weekend

Dear friend:

With COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations increasing at alarming, record-breaking rates, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide executive order (GA-29) that requires most individuals to wear a face mask that covers over the nose and mouth in indoor and outdoor public spaces.

▪any person younger than 10 years of age;
▪any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;
▪any person while the person is consuming food or drink, or is seated at a restaurant to eat or drink;
▪any person while the person is (a) exercising outdoors or engaging in physical activity outdoors, and (b) maintaining a safe distance from other people not in the same household;
▪any person while the person is driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household as the driver;
▪any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the face covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face, such as while visiting a bank or while obtaining a personal care service involving the face, but only to the extent necessary for the temporary removal;
▪any person while the person is in a swimming pool, lake, or similar body of water;
▪any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poli watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged;
▪any person who is actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged;
▪any person while the person is giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience; or
▪any person in a county (a) that meets the requisite criteria promulgated by the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) regarding minimal cases of COVID-19, and (b) whose county judge has affirmatively opted-out of this face-covering requirement by filing with TDEM the required face-covering attestation form—provided, however, that wearing a face covering is highly recommended, and every county is strongly encouraged to follow these face-covering standards.

TDEM will maintain a list of counties that are not subject to this requirement, which can be found at: www.tdem.texas.gov/ga29. AT THIS TIME, NO COUNTIES HAVE BEEN EXEMPTED.

PUNISHMENT FOR NON-COMPLIANCE: Following a verbal or written warning for a first-time violator of this requirement, a person’s second violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250. Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 per violation. 

You can read the executive order here.

This order is necessary because the numbers of cases continue to rapidly increase, and we are headed into another holiday weekend.Below, you can see figures for the state and our region, including the five counties of Texas Senate District 29, as of yesterday morning.
Texas Workforce Commission

On Tuesday, the Texas Workforce Commission announced that it would delay re-imposing a requirement that Texans show they looked for work in order to receive unemployment benefits. You can read more about that here.

Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) BenefitsThe Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will provide approximately $182 million in emergency SNAP food benefits for the month of July as the state continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Texans in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP and Medicaid, at YourTexasBenefits.com or use the Your Texas Benefits mobile app to manage their benefits.

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) (school meals)P-EBT provides eligible families with a one-time payment ($285) for each child who previously received free or reduced-price meals. Children that attend a school that offers free meals to all students (Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2) are also eligible. The application deadline for P-EBT has been extended to July 31, 2020.

You can read more about eligibility here, and find instructions on how to apply in English and Spanish.
A new school year fast approaching

School will begin early this year for nearly everyone. It’s a month away, which is right around the corner. Parents will be asked to pick either in-person or Internet-only education. That will be a difficult choice for many families, requiring clear information as to what to expect from either option. School districts are developing those specifics now; TEA has yet to release their guidance, but is expected to do so soon.

Some protocols being developed by the Ysleta Independent School District for in-person school will include:
▪Students will be required to wear a face mask unless they have a medical or behavioral reason that makes it difficult to wear one. The district will provide students with masks.
▪Teachers and staff will be required to wear masks, and teachers will receive face shields.
▪Every student desk will have a desk divider and social distancing will be maintained between desks, the district said. Hand sanitizer will be available in classrooms and common areas and frequent hand-washing will be built into the schedule.
▪Bus drivers and teachers will receive contactless thermometers to screen students for a fever before they get on the bus or step foot on a campus.

Many educators and parents have expressed serious concerns about going back to school, especially as we don’t know whether COVID-19 will diminish, be under control, or come in a second wave this fall. I share these concerns and will continue to support strategies that focus on the health and safety of students, teachers, and all those integral to our schools.

We are facing an urgent situation with COVID-19, but I am confident that our strong, resilient community will meet the challenge together. One way is by sharing information. My staff has developed a community toolkit, which you may access by clicking below, to support that effort. This includes information on COVID-19 and your health, financial support for small businesses and workers, City and County orders prohibiting non- essential social and business interaction, housing and food support, volunteer opportunities, and even educational and fun things to do with your children.
As we head into the July 4th holiday weekend, I continue to urge everyone to stay home and limit activities to those within your household as much as possible. When in public, wear a face covering, socially distance, and wash your hands regularly. These are the best, scientifically proven ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from infection and potentially serious illness or death.

During this pandemic, our collective health and well-being depend on every person doing their part. Together, we will overcome these challenges.
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