News & Press: Member Update

ACEC Texas Member Update: COVID-19 (March 24, 2020)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Michael Hancock
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ACEC Texas - COVID-19 News and Updates
MARCH 24, 2020

As you know, over the weekend the State of Texas and many local jurisdictions began considering “shelter in place” orders to combat the COVID-19 virus.When this discussion ramped up, ACEC Texas sent a letter to the Governor urging him to clarify, if a statewide order is adopted, that engineering is an “essential service” exempted from a potential ordinance. ACEC Texas’ local chapters sent similar letters to many of the larger cities and counties in anticipation of such orders.

Governor Abbott has so far opted not to issue a statewide order and left decisions up to local governments. Several cities and counites have now issued such orders, most of which exempt “essential services."

A number of our members have asked ACEC Texas if engineering, surveying, and related services are covered by these orders. Unfortunately, there is not a definite and clear-cut answer to this question. Every ordinance is a little different. As with any statute, rule, or ordinance, interpretation is many times left to local officials, which is the case here.

However, many of the ordinances cite or copy language from a guidance document from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Although the CISA document states the information contained in it is intended only as a guide, it is one of the few interpretative documents available at this time; so we wanted to make sure you are aware of it.

To view the guidance document, please click on the following link: CISA Guidance Document.

It is the OPINION of both ACEC Texas and ACEC National that the CISA guidelines cover most engineering and related services that are necessary to carry out the functions of the critical infrastructure listed in the CISA document. However, this is solely an opinion and as stated above, specific interpretation and enforcement will be up to the local entity that issued the order.

If your firm’s employees are working while one of these orders is in place, it might be wise to issue an official company letter stating your company name, what your company does, what services are being provided, on what infrastructure, to what client or clients, why that is “critical infrastructure” or necessary as defined by the local ordinance (cite the specific ordinance or CISA), etc. In addition, it would be prudent to list the individual employee, the employee’s position, ID number (if applicable), address, and state that he/she is employed by your company. Finally, it would be wise to state that it is essential that the named employee be able to travel to work and/or client facilities to ensure that the company can continue to provide these essential services. A company contact with name, title, and phone number should also be included.

Again, these are simply suggestions. We will continue to review and post the local ordinances that are adopted as we get them.

This information is not intended as legal advice and should not be construed as such. For official legal advice, please contact your attorney.

ACEC Texas COVID-19 Website

We continue to encourage our member firms to utilize the ACEC Texas COVID-19 website for state and regional news and helpful resources. We update the webpage regularly throughout the day with the latest news as it becomes available.

To access the webpage, please click on the following below:

ACEC Texas COVID-19 Webpage

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