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

Dozens of clinics throughout the county offer COVID-19 testing services. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)
COVID-19 testing locations remain open in Montgomery County and more local news

Read the latest Houston-area business and community news.

Heading into Thanksgiving, Texas Medical Center continues to report uptick in hospitalizations

The total number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Texas Medical Center facilities has increased by more than 50% over two weeks.

The gym will be located at 910 Pine Market Ave., Ste. 100, Montgomery. (Courtesy Anytime Fitness)
Anytime Fitness to open in Woodforest in Montgomery this winter

The gym will be located at 910 Pine Market Ave., Ste. 100, Montgomery.

Trendmaker Homes has cleared abut 95 acres of trees just south of Pine Valley Drive. (Courtesy Steve Stewart)
New Trendmaker Homes community coming south of Pine Valley Drive, Conroe in fall 2021

Trendmaker Homes has cleared abut 95 acres of trees just south of Pine Valley Drive.

Dozens of clinics throughout the county offer COVID-19 testing services. (William C. Wadsack/Community Impact Newspaper)
Where to get tested for COVID-19 in Montgomery County

Molecular testing used to identify active COVID-19 cases and antibody testing to identify previous infections are both available in the county.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for the state Nov. 23 for a vaccine he said could be available as soon as December. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

The vaccine could start being distributed "as early as next month," according to a Nov. 23 news release.

Community Impact Newspaper uses data from the Montgomery County Public Health District for weekly case counts. (Community Impact Newspaper)
See Montgomery County's COVID-19 trends Nov. 17-23

Active cases increased from 1,828 to 2,513; recoveries grew from 10,012 to 10,655; and the death toll rose from 165 to 169.

Vince Santini was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott on July 23. The court was created to address Montgomery County's growing backlog of civil cases. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Montgomery County 457th District Court judge discusses new role, case backlog

When Vince Santini and his staff moved into the new building, they had to work off cardboard boxes and folding tables until furniture was purchased.

sand mining San Jacinto River APO Kingwood
Process begins to form best practices for sand mining companies in San Jacinto River Basin

“What we're advocating for is that standards be developed that provide a broader regional benefit while maintaining consistency and predictability," said Jill Boullin, executive director of the Bayou Land Conservancy.

Laura Colangelo
Q&A: Laura Colangelo discusses challenges facing private schools during pandemic

Colangelo said private schools have adapted to remote learning and other obstacles in 2020 despite less revenue and a 9% decline in enrollment statewide.

Shake Shack opened its new standalone location at The Woodlands Mall in November. (Courtesy Christine Han)
Shake Shack opens in The Woodlands Mall and more Houston-area updates

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

Each month, Community Impact Newspaper features a neighborhood in the Conroe and Montgomery area. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
See year-over-year real estate data in Conroe, Montgomery, plus this month's featured neighborhood, Arbor Place

The median price of homes sold in October 2019 compared to October 2020 increased in all but one ZIP code.