Governor Greg Abbott announced March 31 that he is keeping schools closed through May 4.

Abbott made the announcement during a media conference, when he also issued an updated executive order regarding COVID-19.

Highland Lakes public school districts had all closed their campuses to in-person instruction through April 13. The extension adds three more weeks to the closures. The last time Highland Lakes students were in class was March 13, the Friday before Spring Break.

School districts have been scrambling to provide remote or at-home instruction. Districts also continue to offer grab-and-go meals at a number of locations Monday-Friday.

Abbott’s March 31 executive order continues his previous ones regarding social distancing guidelines and “instructing Texans to avoid eating or drinking at bars and restaurants,” according to a media release from the governor’s office. The March 31 order also extends the deadline for those guidelines to April 30.

The governor continued his directive for Texans to avoid eating and drinking in bars and restaurants as well as other food service facilities and to steer clear of gyms and massage businesses. This more recent order, however, adds that people should avoid tattoo and piercing studios and hair and nail salons.

His latest executive order offers clarification on essential services. Examples include, but are not limited to, health care, grocery stores, banking and financial services, utilities, child care for essential service employees, and government services.

“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 the virus,” the governor stated in the media release. “Now is the time to redouble our efforts to reduce further exposure as much as possible and flatten the curve.

“As with any actions the state is taking, the Essential Services and Activities Protocols is informed by the expertise and guidance of the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as well as state and local health officials,” Abbott added. “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 Texas Department of Emergency Management will maintain a list of essential services outlined by the governor’s executive orders. The list may be updated in the days to come.

This latest order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. April 2 and ends April 30, though it is subject to an extension.

For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, go to the DailyTrib.com coronavirus resources webpage.

editor@thepicayune.com

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