Houston City Council extends state of disaster to continue coronavirus response

Houston City Council approved an extension of the local disaster declaration in response to the coronavirus outbreak March 17. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Houston City Council approved an extension of the local disaster declaration in response to the coronavirus outbreak March 17. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

Houston City Council approved an extension of the local disaster declaration in response to the coronavirus outbreak March 17. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

A state of disaster for the city of Houston was extended indefinitely March 17 amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The move allows the city to exercise emergency powers as necessary and to qualify for certain state and federal assistance.

"I would much rather history judge us for overreacting than sitting on our heels," Council Member Dave Robinson said.

Houston City Council voted to extend the state of disaster after an initial weeklong declaration was called March 11.

Council Member Greg Travis voted against the declaration after his proposed amendment to have the declaration renewed weekly by City Council was voted down.


“The argument that we have today is that this is going to save lives, but that works for every other disease out there: tuberculosis, hepatitis, chickenpox, smallpox. We will use this argument every year, every month to get what we want done. We need to be rational,” Travis said.

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin said that indefinite disaster declarations are the norm when responding to crises, citing previous hurricanes as examples.

“Every administration and every mayor are granted these same powers, if you want to call it that, and someone has to make the decisions,” Martin said.

Council Member Letitia Plummer asked the mayor to form an ad hoc committee to assess how the city can respond to the economic impact of the measures put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including the announcement to close bars and limit restaurant service. Turner committed to forming that committee alongside Council Member Abbie Kamin, who is the chair of the Public Safety Committee.

Most council members expressed support for the March 16 decision to close bars and limit restaurants to takeout-only for 15 days, but some expressed concern over potential long-term effects.

Martin said that the decision was made an hour before the press conference announcing it to the public. He said the city and Harris County originally planned to limit bars and restaurants to 50% capacity but changed those proposals after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention altered recommendations to limit gatherings to fewer than 10 people instead of its previous recommendation of 50 people.

“Not only do we have to look at what we're doing today, we’ve got to look at the repercussions that are going to happen minute by minute by minute,” he said. “This is the most fluid thing I've ever seen in my 62 years of living, and no one has ever experienced this.”
By Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered public health, education and features for several Austin-area publications. A Boston native, she is a former student athlete and alumna of The University of Texas at Austin.


MOST RECENT

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.

After the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance May 13 that ended all mask requirements for fully vaccinated people, HISD released a statement saying mask mandates would remain in place for the time being for facilities and campuses. (Community Impact staff)
Houston ISD to leave mask policy in place for now

The district is also soliciting feedback on how to spend $800M in pandemic relief funding.

The Ion features an outdoor plaza that helps the building maintain its outdoor, open and walkable focus for its visitors. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
GALLERY: See the progress on The Ion ahead of an anticipated early fall opening

The building—brought to life from a $100 million investment from Rice University—is slated to open in early fall 2021.

The first floor of the venue features an open-floor design with a various seating options and a bar area. (Courtesy SERCA Wines)
Heights Boulevard home opens as wine tasting venue

The new private events venue will be run by Sergio and Carolina Weitzman, who have run a vineyard of the same name in Argentina for 10 years.

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.

(Courtesy city of Houston)
BREAKING: Collins Aerospace coming to Houston Spaceport

Houston officials have announced another company slated for the Houston Spaceport at Ellington Airport in Clear Lake.

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.

TRANSPORTATION UPDATE: West Alabama improvements to kick off this fall

The project will include new concrete streets, curbs, sidewalks, driveways and street lighting.

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.

House Bill 1024, signed into law May 12, allows restaurants and bars to permanently sell alcoholic beverages to-go. (Courtesy Pexels)
Cocktails to-go are here to stay in Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott signs change into law May 12

Supporters say the change will help restaurants continue to recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

New details could emerge soon on the potential use of underground tunnels to carry flood water in Harris County, and officials voted May 11 to dedicate an additional $3.26 million to study efforts along Buffalo Bayou. (Kelly Schafler/Community Impact Newspaper)
County commissioners expand scope of flood tunnel study as next phase nears completion

New details could emerge soon on the potential use of underground tunnels to carry flood water in Harris County, and officials voted May 11 to dedicate an additional $3.26 million to study efforts along Buffalo Bayou.