Harris County stay-at-home order extended until April 30; some nonviolent inmates to be released from county jail

Harris County's "Stay Home-Work Safe" order has been extended through April 30. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County's "Stay Home-Work Safe" order has been extended through April 30. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

Harris County's "Stay Home-Work Safe" order has been extended through April 30. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

The order requiring all Harris County residents to stay home and avoid all nonessential travel is being extended through 11:59 p.m., April 30, officials announced in a March 31 press conference.

In a joint announcement, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the extension of the "Stay Home-Work Safe" order comes with unanimous approval from the CEOs from the hospitals in the Houston Medical Center.

"It is not the time right now to scale back in our containment measures," Hidalgo said. "If anything, it’s time to double down. We’ve not yet gotten to the point of flattening the curve. Our road map back to normalcy begins with the extension of our Stay Home-Work Safe order."

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Harris County, including the city of Houston, has increased from 134 on March 24—a week ago—to 631 on March 31. Turner said there are likely many more people who have been infected who are not included in that count due to testing limitations.

The Harris County announcement comes on the heels of a similar announcement by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued a statewide executive order through April 30 limiting Texas to essential travel and activities.


Dr. Paul Klotman, president and CEO of the Baylor College of Medicine, said proper social distancing could make a difference of four weeks in terms of when the pandemic could peak in Harris County and in whether local hospitals are overwhelmed with cases. If social distancing is successful, the peak could come around early May, he said.

Releasing nonviolent inmates

Hidalgo also announced she is preparing to sign an order that will temporarily release certain nonviolent inmates from the Harris County Jail for however long the county's disaster declaration is in place.

Hidalgo described the situation in the jail, where roughly 8,000 inmates live in close quarters, as a "ticking time bomb." Around 3,000 county staff and contractors are still going in and out of the jail on a regular basis, increasing the chances for potential infection to spread outside of the jail, she said.

"Public health experts have made clear that it’s a dangerous situation," she said. "The cramped conditions there make it virtually impossible to enforce social distancing [and] proper quarantining of sick people."

The released inmates will not include those who have already been convicted of a crime. Exceptions for who will be released include any inmate who has a record of violent crime or making violent threats, anyone who was arrested for burglarizing a residence and anyone who has three or more DWI charges, Hidalgo said.

Before release, each inmate will go through a process that will involve appearing before sheriff pretrial services and a group of criminal justice stakeholders, who will review each person to ensure they do not have a violent history and that they will not released into homelessness, Hidalgo said. The county will also make use of ankle monitors to ensure that released individuals come back to court and of breathalyzers to make sure anyone arrested for DWIs cannot drive drunk while on release.

As many as 1,000 inmates could be released, Hidalgo estimated.

"Those being released are not being absolved of their alleged nonviolent crimes," she said. "Those who are committed who have been found guilty will still face justice and time if necessary."
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

Cy-Fair ISD recently added 266 propane buses to its total fleet. Funded by the 2019 bond package, the buses account for approximately 30% of the district’s total fleet and provide cleaner emissions. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Cy-Fair ISD's 2019 bond program funds new propane buses to replace diesel vehicles

Propane buses now account for about 30% of the district's entire fleet.

A water-bottling company had purchased a tract of land in Conroe Park North with the intent to pump groundwater. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
'Nationally-known' water bottling company backs out of Conroe deal

The proposal—which was dubbed Project Hydrate—had drawn concern from residents and some city officials

The salon offers coloring, extensions, blowouts, children’s cuts and men’s cuts. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Vera Hair Co. now open in Katy

Vera Hair Co. officially opened in Katy on April 24 after a soft opening earlier that month.

The University of St. Thomas is a private Catholic college in Houston. It also has a microcampus in downtown Conroe. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
University of St. Thomas offering free tuition to first 500 students who apply

The online degrees are in the following fields: cybersecurity, network technology, electronic technology, general business, and alcohol and drug dependency counseling.

(Courtesy city of Houston)
IMPACTS ROUNDUP: Spaceplane developer coming to Clear Lake and more aerospace news

Here is a roundup of space-related news in the Clear Lake area.

Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 has begun construction on the first of three phases for its new 43-acre, state-of-the-art campus located in Spring, according to a May 7 news release. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 begins construction on new 43-acre campus

The campus will house ESD No. 11's new ambulance service, which is scheduled to launch Sept. 4 when the district's contract with current service provider, Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services, expires.

King and his team constructed the Ringing Singing Tree, a 17-foot-tall, 20-ton wind powered sound sculpture, in 2015. The project is on display outside of Austin. (Courtesy JK Welding)
Cypress-based JK Welding takes on unique, challenging projects

Motorists might recognize the FM 529 facility by the large projects that can be seen from the street, which have included an oil derrick, a pirate ship and a massive wind chime.

FM 2978 has been under construction since 2018.
(Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Work on FM 2978 continues with expected completion date this summer

The project, begun in 2018, is expected to wrap in the second quarter of 2021.

Tomball Star Academy will celebrate its senior class May 27 with a graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. at the Magnolia Event Center, according to district information. Students will graduate virtually from LSC-Tomball on May 13, according to LSCS information. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
'They’ve created the legacy:' Inaugural class to graduate May 27 from Tomball ISD's early college high school program

The inaugural class of 95 students has been instrumental in paving the way for the students yet to finish the program, said Kelly Marchiando, the principal of Tomball Star Academy since January.

As of the afternoon of May 6, there are 21 total active cases in Friendswood ISD, 13 of them at the same campus. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Friendswood ISD classrooms pivot to virtual learning after COVID-19 outbreak

Two classrooms at Bales Intermediate School will learn remotely for the remainder of the week after more than 10% of the people in those classrooms tested positive for COVID-19. While there is evidence of community spread, the positivity rate for the entire Bales campus is just under 2%.

houston firefighters rally
Appeals court rules in favor Houston firefighters in collective bargaining case

The 14th Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the fire union in a case that originated when the city and the union failed to reach an agreement on a labor contract in 2017.