COVID-19 LEGAL ALERT: Some Commercial Travel from Louisiana to Texas May Need to Apply for Exemption from 14-Day Quarantine as Gulf Coast Fights COVID-19 Transmission
UPDATE: Effective May 1, 2020, travelers to Texas from Louisiana will no longer be required to self-quarantine for 14 days, per Gov. Greg Abbott's Executive Order GA-20.
As states begin to enact orders requiring quarantine of travelers entering their state from a COVID-19 hot spot such as Louisiana or in some cases from anywhere, two Gulf Coast states - Texas and Florida - have authorized highway checkpoints to enforce their orders. While exemptions to the mandate from the two states are similar, only Florida's order contains an exemption for any commercial activity.
Florida - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-86 on March 27, requiring anyone who arrives from Louisiana to isolate themselves for two weeks under the threat of a misdemeanor conviction and a 60-day jail sentence. The order does not apply to persons performing military, emergency, health or infrastructure response, or persons involved in any commercial activity. Commercial motor vehicles may bypass checkpoints to ensure timely delivery of products across the state.
Texas - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-11 on March 26, imposing a mandatory self-quarantine of 14 days for air travelers flying to Texas from certain areas originally including New Orleans and later broadened to include all of Louisiana and other hotspots. It does not apply to people "traveling in connection with military service, emergency response, health response, or critical-infrastructure functions, as may be determined by the Texas Division of Emergency Management." A second executive order, GA-12, imposes a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for those entering Texas through roadways from Louisiana. The wording of GA-12 states "This order to self-quarantine shall not apply to people traveling in connection with commercial activity, military service, emergency response, health response, or critical-infrastructure functions, as may be determined by the Texas Division of Emergency Management" (TDEM).
The wording of GA-12 could be interpreted to create an exception for all commercial roadway travel to Texas from Louisiana, and in fact on the first day of the state trooper checkpoint at the I-10 Texas Welcome Center on the Louisiana border, a news station reported commercial traffic, including semi-trucks, were able to bypass the checkpoint.
However, the TDEM says it will determine on a case-by-case basis whether the self-quarantine order applies to individuals traveling in connection with commercial activity, and has provided a GA-11 and GA-12 Travel-Related Quarantine Exemption Form to submit justification of travel exemption by job position.
There are some automatic exemptions from the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entering Texas. The following do not need to apply with the TDEM for an exemption:
- Federal employees and their contractors
- Individuals traveling for essential health care services (unrelated to COVID-19) with a doctor's note
- Companies that fall within one of the 17 sectors on the DHS Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce advisory list, are a church/congregation/house of worship, or that have received a determination by the TDEM that they are an essential service as defined by Texas Executive Order GA-14. Such a determination can be requested via the TDEM website.
The Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency developed the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce advisory list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions. While both Texas and Louisiana are being guided by the list, it is not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard. The 17 sectors on the list are as follows:
2. Healthcare / Public Health
3. Law Enforcement, Public Safety, and other First Responders
4. Food and Agriculture
5. Water and Waste Water
6. Transportation and Logistics
7. Public Works and Infrastructure Support Services
8. Communications and Information Technology
9. Community- or Government-Based Operations & Essential Functions
10. Critical Manufacturing
11. Hazardous Materials
12. Financial Services
14. Defense Industrial Base
15. Commercial Facilities
16. Residential/Shelter Facilities and Services
17. Hygiene Products and Services
Clients in one of the above sectors may want to provide their traveling employees with "Essential Employee Verification" letters confirming that the employee is engaged in operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability.
If you need assistance with such a letter or with interpreting executive orders or new legislation related to COVID-19, contact your King & Jurgens attorney or Len Brignac at firstname.lastname@example.org.