Update 4:35 p.m. March 24

At the March 24 regular meeting, Fort Bend County Commissioners Court voted to extend the county’s declaration of local disaster for public health emergency through March 31. On that day, the court plans to host a special meeting.

Judge KP George said the county is still working on setting up two coronavirus testing sites but is experiencing issues in obtaining personal protective equipment.

Update 2:59 p.m. March 17

In a special meeting March 17, Fort Bend County Commissioners Court voted to extend the county’s declaration of local disaster for public health emergency through March 24.

Judge KP George first signed the one-week declaration March 12 in response to the coronavirus. This March 17 action extends the declaration until the court meets at its regularly scheduled meeting on March 24.

County staff pointed out that the commissioners could extend the declaration to any date they agree upon, but Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers said the county will have more information by March 24 to make more informed decisions.

“We’ll see what the situation is next week,” Meyers said. “If we need to extend it further, we’ll extend it further. If we need to extend it two weeks or three weeks, we’ll know more next week.”

The court also authorized $500,000 from the general fund balance into the COVID-19 project account to fund coronavirus-related expenses for the Fort Bend County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and Fort Bend County Health & Human Services, such as staffing and setting up disinfectant sites and testing sites in the county.

HHS has been approached by two vendors on setting up testing sites, HHS Director Jacqueline Minter said at the March 17 meeting. If both sites open, they will be able to test about 600 patients a day.

Minter said she hopes one testing site will be set up by the end of the week.

However, the vendors are waiting to receive clarification about funding, she said. The presidential declaration promised residents free testing, but the funding source—federal, state or local funds—to provide the free testing is unclear at this time.

Other logistical efforts such as receiving test kits will also have to be worked through, HSEM coordinator Mark Flathouse said.

Minter said that Fort Bend County still has nine confirmed cases, but that number is likely to rise when additional approved lab testing sites have the ability to confirm coronavirus cases.

“No other lab [other than one in the city of Houston] is an approved lab, and that’s the reason why our numbers are what they are,” she said.

Other coronavirus news

The Commissioners Court also approved a new sick leave policy to help county employees not come to work if they or a close family member are quarantined or contract the virus

George announced in a March 17 Facebook post all Fort Bend County Libraries are closed as of March 18. Beginning March 19, most of the libraries will offer a curbside pickup service for material requested online or on the phone.