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Checkpoints Open at Texas/Louisiana Border

in Coronavirus Updates/Government
Checkpoints Open at Texas/Louisiana Border

Checkpoints to screen cars have been set up on roads entering Texas from Louisiana as part of the enforcement of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order requiring self-quarantine. Beginning Sunday, April 5, 2020, motorists are urged to exercise caution and remain alert for traffic congestion when traveling west into Texas from Louisiana roadways.

Checkpoints and screening of vehicles leaving Louisiana related to the COVID-19 pandemic may result in traffic backups in westbound lanes of travel. The screening of vehicles applies to all roadways crossing the LA/TX border including interstates. Commercial traffic will not be impacted.

People driving from Louisiana to Texas are required to self-quarantine for 14 days as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold of areas in Louisiana and the country hopes to slow the spread. Travelers will be expected to fill out a form detailing where they plan to self-quarantine and their driver licenses information for a random follow up by a state trooper. A copy of the form can be found on https://www.dps.texas.gov/

As punishment for violating these quarantine rules, a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail will be handed down. However, the requirements do not apply to travel related to commercial activity, military service, emergency response, health response, and critical infrastructure functions.

A Texas Highway Patrol spokesperson released the following statement:

“As part of our efforts to enforce Governor Abbott’s Executive Order (GA-12), the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is increasing its presence along the Texas/Louisiana border. DPS Troopers will set up roadway screening stations to gather required forms from road travelers along the border. The area of operations will remain in Texas counties that border Louisiana. The established screening stations will take place on major roadways in these counties, including interstate highways and other high-volume routes. Travelers will be asked to complete the travel form required under GA-12. It’s important for those entering Texas from Louisiana to be prepared to stop.

While the department does not discuss specifics related to its operational plans regarding enforcement, we want the public to be prepared for increased patrols and additional law enforcement presence along the Texas/Louisiana border as we work to enforce the Governor’s Executive Order.”

Orange County Employee Tested Positive — Offices Closed This Week

in Coronavirus Updates/Government
First Case of COVID-19 Reported in Orange County

An Orange County employee tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. County offices will be closed for cleaning from Monday, April 6 through Thursday, April 9. The offices will remain closed on Friday, April 10. 2020,  for the observation of the county holiday for Good Friday. The closure will be evaluated weekly.

Public health is conducting an investigation of the buildings the employee may have entered. Once identified, the buildings will be professionally disinfected.

County parks will remain open to the public, but playground equipment is closed for use.

Mental Health Support Line Established for COVID-19 Pandemic

in Coronavirus Updates/Government
Mental Health Support Line Established

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has launched a statewide mental health support line to help Texans experiencing anxiety, stress, or other emotional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resource offers support for all Texans and can be reached any time day or night at 833-986-1919.

The line is operated by the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD and offers trauma-informed support and psychological first aid to those experiencing mental health symptoms related to COVID-19. Counseling services are confidential and free of charge.

More information on mental health resources and your local mental health authority can be found on their website.

Governor Abbott Implements Statewide Essential Services And Extends School Closings

in Coronavirus Updates/Government
Governor Abbott Extends Quarantine to 10 States, Including Louisiana

Governor Greg Abbott today issued an Executive Order implementing Essential Services and Activities Protocols for the entire state of Texas. The protocols direct all Texans to minimize non-essential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. The Governor’s Executive Order renews and amends his previous order enforcing federal social distancing guidelines for COVID-19, including closing schools and instructing Texans to avoid eating or drinking at bars and restaurants. The protocols allow exceptions for essential activities and services based on the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. Examples of these essential services include healthcare, grocery stores, banking, and financial services, utilities, child care for essential service employees, and government services.

Today’s Executive Order follows the decision by President Trump and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enhance social distancing guidelines and extend the deadline for these guidelines to April 30th.

Governor Abbott was joined for the announcement by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) Chief Nim Kidd, and Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath.

“Social distancing is our best tool in the fight against COVID-19, and the actions we have taken thus far have proven to be effective in limiting the spread of this virus,” said Governor Abbott. “Now it is time to redouble our efforts to reduce further exposure as much as possible and flatten the curve. As with all the actions the state is taking, the Essential Services and Activities Protocols is informed by the expertise and guidance of the CDC as well as state and local health officials. I urge my fellow Texans to heed these heightened social distancing directives to protect their health and the health of those around them. By following these guidelines, we will limit the spread of COVID-19 and overcome this challenge together.”

The Executive Order renews and expands the Governor’s previous directive to minimize social gatherings and minimize contact with people who are not in the same household. It also renews the Governor’s directive to avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, and visiting gyms or massage establishments, and it expands the order to include tattoo studios, piercing studios, and cosmetology salons.

In accordance with federal guidelines, people are still prohibited from visiting nursing homes, state-supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance. Additionally, schools will remain temporarily closed to in-person classroom attendance through May 4, 2020.

This Executive Order does not prohibit people from accessing essential services or engaging in essential daily activities, such as going to the grocery store or gas station, providing or obtaining other essential services, hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activity like jogging or bicycling, so long as the necessary precautions are maintained to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. The order also includes exemption for religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship. All critical infrastructure will remain operational, and government entities and businesses will continue providing essential services.

TDEM will maintain an online list of essential services specified in the Governor’s Executive Order at www.tdem.texas.gov/essentialservices/. Other essential services may be added to this list with the approval of TDEM.

These orders will be effective on a statewide basis starting at 12:01 AM on April 2, 2020, and will end on April 30, 2020, subject to extension thereafter based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the CDC.

View the Governor’s Executive Order.

CARES Act and SBA Provide Assistance for Small Business

in Business/Coronavirus Updates/Government

Small Business Owners are eligible to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) due to COVID-19 through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Business owners should make every attempt to apply online here. Businesses may be eligible to receive up to $2 million with no payments for 12 months at a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses and 2.75% for private nonprofits. Terms may be extended for up to 30 years. Small businesses, small ag cooperatives, and private non-profits are eligible. Funds may be used for fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills affected by the disaster.

The CARES Act provides additional assistance for small business owners, including the opportunity to receive up to a $10,000 grant advance on an EIDL. The SBA is updating its system to implement this provision so small businesses can request an EIDL Advance when they apply for the loan. This update will be available in the coming days. In the interim applicants can still apply for a full EIDL but will need to reapply for the Advance when the system is updated with a streamlined application. Once the EIDL Advance is active, funds will be direct deposited into the applicant’s business account.

To find out more about the EIDL program, businesses are encouraged to join one of the four daily calls with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Houston District Office or contact the Orange County Economic Development Corporation. A webinar schedule is available on the OCEDC webpage under the Business Resources tab as well as here.

In addition to the EIDL, the CARES Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses. Importantly, these loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward. The PPP funds are administered through third party lenders. For more information on the Paycheck Protection Program, contact your local lending institution or the Orange County Economic Development Corporation.

In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration has created a page with consolidated information for small businesses who need guidance and loan resources due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Small Businesses can find information concerning Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Loan Advance, SBA Debt Relief, SBA Express Bridge Loans, and much more.
For additional information, please click here.

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