Alert: "Texas Governor Defines 'Essential Services'"


On March 31, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-14 (the “Order”) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Order took effect at 12:01 A.M. on April 2, 2020 and is set to expire on April 30, 2020.  Pursuant to the Order, “every person in Texas shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.”

The Order defines “essential services” as everything listed in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)’s Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce, Version 2.0 (the “CISA Guidance 2.0”) plus certain religious services, which are clarified in Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton’s Joint Guidance

The CISA Guidance 2.0 issued on March 28, 2020 identifies 17 critical infrastructure sectors:

  • Healthcare/Public Health
  • Law Enforcement, Public Safety, and other First Responders
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Water and Wastewater
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Public Works and Infrastructure Support Services
  • Communications and Information Technology
  • Other Community- or Government-Based Operations and Essential Functions
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Financial Services
  • Chemical
  • Defense Industrial Base
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Residential/Shelter Facilities and Services
  • Hygiene Products and Services

This list is an expansion of CISA’s previously-issued March 19, 2020 guidance.  It identifies workers necessary for the continued viable operation of the critical sectors, including but not limited to staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing operational functions.

Employers should review the revised list in CISA Guidance 2.0 carefully because not only does it include additional critical sectors, such as Commercial Facilities, Residential/Shelter Facilities, and Hygiene Products and Services, but it also expands the list of workers that are considered “essential” within many of the sectors.  For instance, workers at retail facilities specializing in medical goods and supplies, bus drivers, vehicle rental and leasing employees, private security staff in buildings, and employees manufacturing law enforcement, safety, medical, and personal protective equipment are all now deemed “essential.” 

In addition, the Order permits other essential services to be added with the approval of the Texas Division of Emergency Management.  Requests for additions to the essential services list may be submitted through

When providing or obtaining essential services, the Order instructs people and businesses to follow CDC guidelines by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, implementing social distancing, and working from home if possible.

The Order supersedes all conflicting orders issued by local officials in response to COVID-19 to the extent the local orders restrict essential services that are allowed by the Order or allow gatherings that are prohibited by the Order.