From the Desk of HD 4 State Representative Keith Bell
In an effort to keep you informed, I have provided the below updates from President Trump, Governor Abbott, State Agencies, and Kaufman and Henderson County. Texas is committed to providing information and resources to help keep you, your family, and community safe and healthy. These are challenging times and our office will continue to update you throughout this pandemic!
Update from President Trump:

Distribution of the Paycheck Protection Program
The Small Business Administration has  posted  an update on its distribution of funds from the Paycheck Protection Program. According to SBA, nearly 1.7 million loans were approved for an average of $206,000. Of the loans approved, 134,737 were for Texas businesses, which totaled $28.5 million.
Update from Governor Abbott:

Texas' Re-Opening Plan
On Monday, the Governor announced that the Texas stay at home order will be expiring on April 30th, and he issued an executive order detailing how the state may reopen in a phased approach. The order begins Phase 1 on Friday, May 1 st , 2020. The order:

  • Encourages vulnerable populations to stay at home as much as possible.
  • Increases protections at senior living centers.
  • Allows dine-in restaurant, retail in-store, malls, museums, libraries, and movie theaters to open at 25% of occupancy beginning on May 1, while operating under minimum health standards.  
  • Allows opening of outdoor sports and churches/places of worship with some constraints.
  • Provides a process for counties with five or fewer cases to increase dine in restaurant, retail in-store, and move theater capacity to as much as 50% of capacity.
  • Certain business types like salons, gyms, and summer camps will be considered in later phases. 

Essential services such as farmers and ranchers, grocery and drug stores, banks, and gas
stations will continue to operate. Public swimming pools, bars, gyms, cosmetology salons,
massage establishments, interactive amusement venues, such as bowling alleys and video arcades, and tattoo and piercing studios will remain closed through Phase I. Nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, and long-term care facilities must remain closed to visitors unless to provide critical assistance.

The Governor's announcement is accompanied by Texans Helping Texans: The Governor's Report to Open Texas . This detailed report, helps Texans understand phase one by outlining the new protocols, guidance, and recommendations. The report also includes a series of Open Texas Checklists that outline DSHS' minimum standard health protocols for all Texans.

Governor Abbott, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Announce Free Online Training For Child Care Providers During COVID-19 Response
Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service today announced a series of free online trainings for child care providers and parents who are either in need of, or who will be providing care for, children of essential employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The first three trainings are available on Texas A&M AgriLife’s online learning platform.

Additional free training sessions will be rolled out incrementally and will address health and safety guidelines, practices for staffing, essential materials for child care operations, developmentally appropriate activities, adult-child interactions and more. Trainings will also address topics such as emergency management planning, stress management and self-care for caregivers, planning at-home activities for children, parent-child communication, and supporting children’s emotional needs. Additionally, Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott provided an introductory video for the child care training sessions.
These online training courses were developed through a collaboration between the Governor's Texas Frontline Child Care Task Force, specialists in child and early child development, health, disaster assessment and recovery and family economics from AgriLife's Family and Community Health Unit. It also included experts from the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children, Children’s Learning Institute, Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and Texas Department of State Health Services.

The first three trainings available now are:

Governor Abbott Temporarily Allows for Appearance Before Notary Public Via Videoconference For Real-Estate Instruments
Governor Abbott has suspended a statute concerning appearance before a notary public to acknowledge real-estate instruments such as mortgages. This suspension temporarily allows for appearance before a notary public via videoconference when executing such documents, avoiding the need for in-person contact during the COVID-19 pandemic. The conditions that will apply whenever this suspension is invoked can be found here.

This suspension will remain in effect until the earlier of May 30, 2020, or until the March 13, 2020 disaster declaration is lifted or expires. Documents executed while this suspension is in effect, and in accordance with its terms, will remain valid after the termination of this suspension.
Update from the Department of State Health Services:

County Attestation for Rural Counties
DSHS will provide access to a county attestation form for reopening and receive attestations completed by rural county judges. The attestation form allows those judges to increase capacity up to 50% for restaurants, retail and movie theaters on an individualized basis. The counties must adhere to health protocols listed on the DSHS website for individuals and businesses. The county judge must attest to the following items:

  • The county had five or fewer COVID-19 laboratory confirmed cases on April 30, 2020 or on a later date, if the county had 5 or fewer active COVID-19 cases as verified by DSHS.
  • The county has created a list of testing opportunities in the county or the area. 
  • The county has been in contact with its designated RAC to ensure the community is prepared for any needed health care transfers.
  • The county has provided public notice to the residents of its county, including:
  • The county has contacted each of the following types of facilities located in its county to ensure they are complying with HHSC and CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19:
  • The county is equipped and prepared to protect vulnerable populations, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • The county has documented procedures to be activated if a resident becomes COVID-19 positive, including procedures to close businesses or facilities as necessary in line with the plan to open Texas.
  • The county has contacted DSHS in order to create a plan to ensure contact tracing will occur within 48 hours of a positive test reported to DSHS.

Under the executive order, the Governor may return the county to stricter social distancing requirements if certain measurements indicate the burden of COVID in the community is increasing. DSHS will monitor data related COVID infection rates and hospital surge capacity for this purpose.

Testing Expansion
DSHS, TDEM, and the Governor’s Supply Chain Strike Force continue to focus efforts on expanding testing through:

  • DSHS laboratory expansion and outreach
  • Increased testing at senior living facilities
  • Broadened public health testing criteria
  •  Acquisition of collection and laboratory supplies through the private supply chain and from the federal government
  • Continuation of the Mobile Testing Teams operated as a partnership of TDEM, DSHS, and the Military Department

Contact Tracing Expansion
Contact tracing is an integral component of the effort to reopen Texas safely. Contact tracing is a core public health practice in which public health workers identify and follow-up on people who may have been in close contact with someone with an infectious disease. Once identified, a contact is informed about the possible exposure, assessed for symptoms, given instructions and resources for isolating themselves, and connected to testing when needed.

To support the effort to reopen, DSHS is working to expand contact tracing capacity in the state. Up to this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been about 800 public health professionals in Texas engaged in contact tracing, including both local health department and DSHS staff.

Starting today, more than 350 additional DSHS employees trained in contact tracing are beginning the work to expand contact tracing throughout the state. These employees have been pulled from throughout the agency to support this effort. The breakdown of these staff are:
  •  350 contact tracers
  •  24 epidemiology leads

The DSHS contact tracing team are divided into eight teams, one per public health region, to follow up on cases in that area. Contact tracers will contact anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 in Texas to begin the tracing process. They will coordinate with local health departments on follow-up.

This is an initial step to a much larger goal to recruit and train an overall contact tracing workforce of up to 4,000. We’re working with various academic and public health partners to make this happen, including schools of public health, community health workers, medical and nursing students and school nurses.

Texas Health Trace
Texas also launched the Texas Health Trace web portal , which is accessible through or the DSHS coronavirus website.

Texas Health Trace includes a self-checker to help people identify their possible risk of COVID-19 and provide instructions on what to do next. Once someone completes the self-checker, they can choose to register, which will put them in touch with a public health contact tracer, who will follow up with them to:

  • Help them find testing, as appropriate
  • Provide advice on steps they can take to keep from spreading the virus
  • Connect them with additional resources

If someone has already tested positive, they can enter their information into Texas Health Trace and request follow-up for contact tracing or other support or resources.

Texas Health Trace also provides support for contact tracing case management and data management, allowing for the confidential storage of information, as well as collaboration between the state and local health departments.
Resources on Re-Opening Texas
On May 1st, the first phase of opening Texas began. Businesses, employees and customers all need to work together and take safety steps to protect each other. The Office of the Governor and DSHS have provided many communication resources, including printable materials and graphics, on the first phase of re-opening listed below.

The DSHS Open Texas Safety Checklists:
All employers:
Retail customers:
Restaurant customers:
Movie theaters:
Movie theater customers:
Museums and libraries:
Museum and library visitors:
Churches and places of worship:
Single person offices:
Outdoor sports participants:
All checklists:
Update from Henderson County:

Henderson County has continued to provide information on their website .

Office Contact Information
Forney Office
315 Bois D. Arc
Forney, TX 75126
(972) 552-5573
Capitol Office
P.O. Box 2910, E2.702
Austin, TX 78768 
(512) 463-0458 
Athens Office
100 E. Corsicana St., 204
Athens, Texas 75751
(903) 675-3069