Stay-at-home order given for all nonessential employees in Harris County

County Judge Lina Hidalgo (center), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Public Health Executive Director Umair A. Shah spoke at a March 5 press conference about Harris County's first confirmed COVID-19 cases. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
County Judge Lina Hidalgo (center), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Public Health Executive Director Umair A. Shah spoke at a March 5 press conference about Harris County's first confirmed COVID-19 cases. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

County Judge Lina Hidalgo (center), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Public Health Executive Director Umair A. Shah spoke at a March 5 press conference about Harris County's first confirmed COVID-19 cases. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a mandatory order on March 24 that requires all Harris County residents to stay home if they do not work at a job that is considered essential to the health and safety of the community. Referred to as "Stay Home-Work Safe," the order will go into effect at midnight the morning of March 25 and last through April 3.

The order applies to all residents in Harris County, including the unincorporated areas and all cities within the county. Officials said the order is meant to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and its disease, COVID-19.

"Any delay in additional action would be incredibly problematic," Hidalgo said at a March 24 press conference. "By staying home, we are saving lives, we are flattening the curve of the virus, and we are not overwhelming our health care system and our community as a whole."

Under the order, all public gatherings outside of a single household are prohibited, and all businesses that are not considered essential must cease operations. Essential businesses are based on guidelines set out by the federal Cybersecurity Infrastructure Agency and include jobs in the energy sector, health care, transportation and critical manufacturing, among others.

"The idea is to maintain the supply chain of these essential sectors across localities," Hidalgo said.


Restaurants will continue to be allowed to provide delivery, takeout and drive-thru services. Residents are allowed to leave the house for essential travel, including trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and to seek medical treatment. Residents can also go outside to exercise and go to parks but will be barred from playing on playgrounds and using public exercise equipment. All residents who leave the house—whether to shop, go to the park or go to work—are required to practice social distancing and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other people.

Day cares that provide support for essential employees will remain open. Faith leaders can also host one-on-one sessions with people for mental health or spiritual health purposes but must practice social distancing, Hidalgo said.

Over the past week, Hidalgo said hospital CEOs in Harris County have reported an exponential increase in people coming to the hospital as well as the percentage of patients who need to be treated and the length of time patients need to stay in intensive care.

Dr. Mark Boom, the CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital System, said he has been coordinating with other hospital leaders across the region to provide guidance to city and county officials. He said hospitals are at around 70% of adult capacity and 90% of pediatric capacity across the city.

"We have looked at modeling that says the time to act is now," Boom said at the March 24 conference. "Every piece of data we see coming in from our institutions says the time to act is now ... Once this gets out of control, it is extremely difficult to control and bring back down."

Turner said he recognized the strain the order places on the local economy and on business owners. He said the order is the most strategic way to blunt the spread of COVD-19 while balancing the needs of families, businesses and the city's economic interests.

"In order not to prolong this crisis, in order to blunt the progression of this virus, we both recognize that steps need to be taken ... so we are not in the situation longer than we need to be," Turner said.

Enforcement of the order will be left to the discretion of law enforcement, Hidalgo said. Violators could face a fine and up to 180 days in jail, she said.

"If folks are willingly violating the order in a way that puts other people at risk, we will work with law enforcement, but I really believe and trust that folks will comply because this about the health of all of us," she said.

In a statement, state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, criticized the order as being draconian and questioned why a mandatory order was necessary.

"Anecdotal evidence around Harris County indicates that residents have already taken substantial steps to comply with the existing guidelines," he wrote. "With the lion share of residents in compliance, what specific examples of non-compliance have changed your mind since your press conference yesterday morning?"

At the press conference, both Hidalgo and Turner emphasized the goal is not to shut the city down.

"The recommendations [the experts have] made so far—what the data tells us so far—is not that we have to shut down the county or city of Houston; it's that we have to stay home and allow essential businesses to continue and that those essential businesses must do their absolute best to enforce social distancing," Hidalgo said.

Hidalgo and Turner previously ordered all bars in the county to close and all restaurants to end their dine-in services.

Harris County commissioners are expected to continue discussing coronavirus response at a regularly scheduled Commissioners Court meeting that began at 10 a.m. Among other agenda items, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia is requesting approval for an agreement with the Lift Fund that would provide the county with $10 million in four-year, no-interest loans to small businesses affected by the pandemic.
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


MOST RECENT

Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 met Jan. 21 at its new administrative offices. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 lays groundwork for 911 dispatching plans

Cypress Creek EMS currently serves as a dispatch facility for 17 emergency agencies.

(Courtesy The Connection School of Houston)
A guide to Cy-Fair private schools in 2021

See extracurricular activities offered, current enrollment and tuition rates at local private schools.

The new salon specializes in manicures and pedicures as well as waxing and facials. (Courtesy King Nails Cypress)
King Nails Cypress plans grand opening on Hwy. 290

The new salon specializes in manicures and pedicures as well as waxing and facials.

Members of the Cy-Fair Fire Department Emergency Medical Services team respond to an accident on Brittmore Road in Cy-Fair on Jan. 8. (Courtesy Capt. Daniel Arizpe/Cy-Fair Fire Department)
New fund to benefit Cy-Fair firefighters, department members

"We want to be able to come in and do some work that needs to be done for these heroic people."

One local health system leader said he expects everyone, including those under age 65, will have access to the vaccine within the next 90 days. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston-area health system leaders talk progress, hurdles during COVID-19

Officials from CHI St. Luke’s Health and UTMB Health said community members must remain vigilant as case counts climb but that they expect the current surge to peak by early February.

During a North Houston Association meeting Jan. 20, Jazz Hamilton—first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services Group for CBRE—discussed how the future of retail will likely be shaped by the conveniences to which consumers have become accustomed amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pandemic-induced retail conveniences are here to stay, official says

According to Jazz Hamilton, first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services group for CBRE, between January and November of 2020, consumers spent almost $550 billion online—a 33% increase from 2019.

The estimated number of active COVID-19 cases in Harris County has surpassed 50,000, reaching 51,362 as of the most recent data Jan. 20, according to the Harris County Public Health Department. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: Active cases top 50,000

See the latest trends on COVID-19 in Harris County.

Bao Bros. Bistro opened on Hwy. 6 in October, offering steamed bao buns, boba tea and beer. (Courtesy Bao Bros. Bistro)
44 restaurants, cafes and other eateries that opened in Cy-Fair in 2020

From our January edition: See the new openings in the Cy-Fair area over the past year

Krab Kingz is now open in Cypress. (Courtesy Krab Kingz)
Krab Kingz opens Cypress storefront

Krab Kingz entered a soft opening phase Jan. 14 at 12640 Telge Road, Ste. D, Cypress.

In addition to vaccine hubs, there are also smaller community vaccine providers throughout Texas, such as pharmacies, that may also have the vaccine available. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
EXPLAINED: When, where and how Texans can receive the COVID-19 vaccine

As Texas is still in the early stages of rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, many Texans are still unsure about where, when and how they can get inoculated.

The barbecue eatery is the second Killen's Restaurant Group venture to launch in The Woodlands area. (Courtesy Killen's Barbecue)
Killen's Barbecue opens in The Woodlands and more Houston-area news

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