Montgomery County judge: 'We will end up with shelter-in-place if people don’t stand behind orders'

Commissioners convened March 24 and discussed the need to comply with coronavirus regulations, although questions on regulation capacity remain. (Community Impact Staff)
Commissioners convened March 24 and discussed the need to comply with coronavirus regulations, although questions on regulation capacity remain. (Community Impact Staff)

Commissioners convened March 24 and discussed the need to comply with coronavirus regulations, although questions on regulation capacity remain. (Community Impact Staff)

Note: Community Impact Newspaper will reach out to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office for clarification on how coronavirus measures are being enforced. This story will be updated once that information is received.

Residents of Montgomery County will likely not face a shelter-in-place order like the ones neighboring counties have enacted—so long as they comply with coronavirus, or COVID-19, regulations, Montgomery County officials said.

The county has enacted increasingly stringent measures to limit the spread of coronavirus: first, encouraging individuals to refrain from large social gatherings, and then, limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery and closing nonessential businesses.

As of March 24, Gov. Greg Abbott has not issued a statewide shelter-in-place order, and it is up to individual counties to do so. At the March 24 Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge Mark Keough said he is not planning on issuing such an order as neighboring counties have—including Harris County, which issued a “Stay Home-Work Safe” order that same day.

“I have chosen, given my statutory ability and advice from many individuals ... At this point, we are not [enacting a shelter-in-place order],” Keough said. “We’re no longer putting any more restrictions on what we have.”


To avoid further restrictions, individuals must follow existing regulations and orders, Keough said.

“If people are in violation, we will end up with a shelter-in-place [order] if we don’t stand behind the orders we have implemented. ... The orders have teeth,” he said. “The [more] we refuse to self-regulate, it becomes a necessity for government to step in and start maintaining control.”

However, it is unclear to what extent the county overall is complying with Gov. Abbott's orders, or the extent to which local law enforcement has gone in regulating and enforcing orders.

“Our people are being compliant,” Keough said earlier in the discussion. “We have put some things in place that are working, and our county is doing it. ... Our county is doing an amazing job.”

Later, however, Keough said the county has responded to reports of businesses in violation.

“The sheriff’s office has followed up on those reports, [such as] restaurants with too many people. ... We’ve had a number of those,” he said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said he is more concerned that county officials and employees are not following the 10-person limit. More than 10 people, including the judge and commissioners, were present at the March 24 commissioners court meeting.

“I see the judges are sitting out there this morning,” Riley said. “We’ve still got the judges' courtrooms open. People are walking in there—30, 40, 50, 100 people. ... The county clerk ... and tax office [are still open]. ... This whole building is open.”

Riley said he does not know what the best course of action is but noted the futility of some efforts.

“I went by H-E-B this morning, and there’s probably 45 people standing in line next to one another,” he said. “I’m not advocating for shutting down the county, ... but the places that we’ve told them they couldn’t [congregate], they’re doing it.”

There is also the question of enforcement capacity. Keough vacillated as to what level of enforcement the county can and will take, although he said that his goal is to not turn the county into a “police state.”

“We don’t have the capacity, nor do our surrounding counties, of watching everybody in all these various things,” he said at one point, referring to the 10-person limit and ensuring restaurants and businesses are in compliance.

Later, Keough said District Attorney Brett Ligon and Sherriff Rand Henderson have “assured [the court] they will take action.”

“We have law enforcement all over the county who are ready and willing to bring people into compliance,” Keough said, “We will have our law enforcement group go and bring people into compliance. The objective here is not to arrest people, but we have the power to arrest; we have the power to take away liquor licenses; we have the power to enforce this.”
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.


MOST RECENT

Co-owner Damon Haynes opened the restaurant in honor of his grandfather. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Wings Over Montgomery: Local restaurant dedicated to famed Texas lawyer Richard Haynes

Haynes was known to take on seemingly impossible cases, and his courtroom theatrics included shocking himself with a cattle prod.

Effective June 26, unemployed Texans will no longer be eligible to receive the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces end-date for Texans to receive federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits

Effective June 26, unemployed Texans will no longer be eligible to receive the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

Photo of an H-E-B store
H-E-B makes curbside services free

Previously, curbside shoppers were charged a $4.95 fee on all orders, but moving forward that fee will be waived on purchases of $35 or more. Orders worth less than $35 will have a $2.95 "small basket surcharge" attached.

Imperio Wine & Spirits sells a variety of liquor, beer, wine and spirits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Imperio Wine & Spirits opens in Katy; Montgomery Chick-fil-A to open dining room and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Greater Houston area.

A new substation could be coming to Montgomery to better serve customers in the next 10 years. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Entergy Texas considering new substation in Montgomery area at FM 1097 and FM 149

The project is part of Entergy’s 10-year plan but could be built sooner.

See how some Greater Houston area school districts are planning to go back to school for the 2021-22 academic year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
See how some Greater Houston area school districts are planning to go back to school for the 2021-22 academic year

While some school districts in the Greater Houston area are doing away with face mask requirements and virtual schooling completely, others are pivoting to continue offering online learning options for students and plan to require face masks.

masks
CDC ends all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people

The guidance states fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors.

The festival is estimated to bring in at least $1.1 million to the city. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Conroe music festival in the works

The four-day festival would include more than 30 bands and 40 shows across multiple venues and pop-ups.

Single-family home sales were up 47.4% compared to last April with 9,105 units sold versus 6,175 a year earlier. (Courtesy Houston Association of Realtors)
HAR: Houston-area home sales in April up 47% compared to last year

Single-family home sales were up 47.4% compared to April 2020.