All the major decisions, orders from Gov. Abbott since the COVID-19 pandemic began: A timeline

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 19, 2021. (KPRC)

Just last week, Gov. Greg Abbott, in an attempt to move forward in reopening Texas amid the COVID-19 pandemic, made waves when he announced he was rescinding his mask mandate.

Per usual, there were people on both sides of the fence, praising him for doing what he could to lead us back to some sort of normalcy as COVID-19 vaccines roll out, and those who condemned him, saying the decision was unsafe and could be detrimental to the health of many.

In an attempt to look at the bigger picture, as it pertains to all the major decisions and executive orders Abbott has made in the last year of the pandemic, we put together a timeline of the ups and downs in Texas’ fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

March 2020

March 13: Abbott declared a statewide emergency, and San Antonio was the first city in Texas to have a drive-thru testing facility for COVID-19.

March 16: The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAR) requirements were waived for the 2019-20 school year.

March 17: Abbott activated Texas National Guard to help the state’s response to COVID-19.

March 19: A public health emergency was declared, closing all restaurant dining rooms, gyms and banning social gatherings of 10 or more.

March 22: Abbott signed an executive order expanding hospital bed capacity and allowing for increased occupancy of hospital rooms so that more than one patient could be treated in a room. He also directed all licensed health care professionals and facilities to postpone all surgeries and procedures that were not immediately medically necessary.

March 24: All state-run hospitals were ordered to submit daily reports of hospital bed capacity to Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), which was to immediately be relayed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, any entity utilizing any COVID-19 test was to report all test results -- positive or negative -- to the DSHS and the local health departments, as well as sharing with the CDC.

March 26: An executive order was issued to mandate a self-quarantine of 14 days for people traveling to Texas from the Tri-State Area of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the city of New Orleans. Under the order, a quarantined person was not to visit any public spaces other than a physician or health care provider.

March 29: Abbott ordered that every person who entered Texas through roadways from Louisiana would be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days from the time they entered into the state.

On the same day, amid talk of broad-scale release of arrested or jailed people as a result of COVID-19, Abbott ordered that no authority should release on bond a person previously convicted of a crime that involved physical violence or threat of physical violence, or anyone arrested for such a crime that is supported by probable cause.

April 2020

April 17: Public and private schools and higher education campuses closed for the remainder of academic year.

An executive order stated: “Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings, but no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering.”

On the same day, Abbott announced the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, in which studies would be executed to make recommendations on “safely and strategically restarting and revitalizing all aspects of the Lone Star State — work, school, entertainment and culture.”

He announced he would reopen retail services “that are not ‘essential services,’ but that may be provided through pickup, delivery by mail, or delivery to the customer’s doorstep in strict compliance with the terms required by DSHS.”

April 27: Abbott announced the reopening of many services, including dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums, libraries and more, but they were only to operate at up to 25% of the total listed occupancy.

In addition, Abbott rescinded the executive order pertaining to self-quarantining travelers to Texas from New Orleans.

May 2020

May 7: Spaces in which licensed cosmetologists or barbers practice their trade were allowed to reopen, to include cosmetology salons, hair salons, barber shops and nail salons.

An executive order stated no jurisdiction would be allowed to confine anyone to jail for violating any order issued in response to the COVID-19 disaster.

May 18: Gyms, exercise facilities and personal care services were allowed to reopen under new standards. People using the gyms should wear gloves, Abbott said.

Child care centers and youth clubs were allowed to reopen.

Overnight camping at Texas state parks resumed for those with pre-existing reservations.

May 21: An executive order was issued that terminated air travel restrictions related to the pandemic.

May 22: All county and municipal jails were closed to in-person visitation.

June 2020

June 3: Most businesses were allowed to operate at 50%.

June 12: Restaurants were allowed to expand occupancy to 75%.

June 18: Abbott said students would return to in-person school in the fall.

June. 25: An executive order was issued that suspended all elective surgeries and paused reopening Texas.

June 26: Restaurants were instructed not to operate at more than 50%.

July 2020

July 2: A statewide order was issued that required Texans to wear face coverings in public. It also gave local leaders authority to impose bans on outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, with exceptions.

July 27: Abbott provided an extra six days of early voting for the election to allow for more time and better social distancing at the polls.

Fall 2020

Sept. 17: Hospitals were told to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary to diagnose or correct a serious medical condition, unless if performed “in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, (and) would not deplete any hospital capacity needed to cope with the COVLD-19 disaster.”

Oct. 7: Abbott announced that all businesses could open up to operate at 75%.

Dec. 22: Abbott received his first dose of the vaccine.

Dec. 29: Businesses operating at 75% were ordered to cut back to 50% in Bexar County, due to a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the area. The move was made under an order Abbott issued in October that allowed certain venues to open to 75% capacity, unless they were located in a Trauma Service Area with seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID‑19 hospitalized patients exceeded 15% of the total hospital capacity.


Jan. 5, 2021: Counties within the Houston area rolled back to 50% capacity, just as Bexar County did the week before, after data from the DSHS showed that coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area Q, which includes Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, had been above 15% for seven consecutive days.

Feb 16, 2021: Bexar County hospitalizations dropped below the 15% threshold, allowing for businesses to get back to expanded reopenings.

Feb 23, 2021: Houston-area hospitalizations dropped below the 15% threshold, allowing for businesses to get back to expanded reopenings.

March 2, 2021: Abbott announced he would reopen Texas and rescind the mask mandate.

March 10, 2021: Businesses in Texas allowed to reopen at 100%, and masks are no longer mandated in the state.

About the Author:

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.