Construction Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The status of construction in Central Texas has been a complicated issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 31, 2020 Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-14, “relating to statewide continuity of essential services and activities during the COVID-19 disaster.” The order is effective through April 30, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas.

In describing the essential services and activities which may proceed, Governor Abbott’s order incorporates by reference the list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During the COVID-19 Response,” published by the Department of Homeland Security, on March 28, 2020. The order states that it supercedes any conflicting order issued by local officials, but only to the extent that such local orders restrict essential services allowed by the Governor’s executive order or allows gatherings prohibited by the order.

The City of Austin and Travis County had previously taken the position in clarifications to its own “Stay Home – Work Safe” orders (see “Guidance for the Construction Industry” on March 25, 2020 and “Supplemental Guidance for the Construction Industry” on March 30, 2020 and Stay Home – Work Safe Order No. 2020-5 Guidance for the Construction Industry) that commercial and residential construction in Austin were prohibited except in limited kinds of projects that the city and county determined were “Critical Infrastructure.”

However, on April 2, 2020, the City of Austin issued Stay Home – Work Safe Order 20200324-007 Supplemental Guidance Based on Executive Order No. GA-14, in which it states that “All construction work permitted in the Governor’s March 31, 2020 Executive Order (No. GA-14) is permitted.  City will no longer prohibit commercial or residential construction projects.”

Travis County issued its own update on April 2nd as well: Stay Home – Work Safe Travis County Order No. 2020-5 related to Executive Order GA-14. Travis County is taking the position that it “will not be enforcing a prohibition against residential or commercial construction.”

Both the Governor’s state-wide order, the City of Austin’s order, and the Travis County order provide directives as to social distancing and healthy workplace requirements for construction work during the pandemic. We have been and will continue to monitor the directives provided by governmental entities.