UPDATE: Fort Bend County Judge amends emergency declaration to order closure of gyms, salons, theaters

(Rendering courtesy U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
(Rendering courtesy U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

(Rendering courtesy U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Updated 4:41 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.

Fort Bend County Judge KP George announced late March 20 that gyms, fitness centers and any other facilities used for training, martial arts or sports must close in an attempt to flatten the curve associated with cases of COVID-19 coronavirus.

Updated 8:29 a.m. March 21

Hair and nail salons, massage parlors, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, game rooms and bingo halls were added to the list of businesses ordered to close. The order does not apply to grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and banks, but these establishments are encouraged to comply with necessary precautions.

George posted the following statement on Facebook around midnight March 21:

"Scientific models and real life experiences from places like Italy, have shown without drastic action, the spread of COVID-19 from a small percentage of the population can exponentially rise. We need to 'flatten the curve' or use protective practices to slow the rate of COVID-19 infections over time and throughout the community, so hospitals have the room, supplies, and doctors for all the patients who need intensive care. We must slow the spread to make sure our limited ICU facilities in the region do not get overwhelmed. We also cannot risk our medical staff or first responders getting the novel corona virus. That is why, after the Governor’s Executive Order, I issued an updated Order in Fort Bend County to ensure more social distancing—the only known tool to fight community spread of COVID19."

This order will be in effect until April 3. Restaurants may still serve curbside, takeout or delivery options, including alcohol sales. Access to Fort Bend County offices and facilities have been limited to essential functions only. Residents are also ordered not to congregate in groups of more than 10, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Read the full updated order here.

Updated 7:09 p.m., March 17

Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman has followed suit with Fort Bend County in ordering all restaurants and other establishments that serve food be limited to takeout, delivery and drive-thru options as of March 17. This order will be in effect beginning at midnight March 18 through March 31, like the county judge called for March 16.

All Sugar Land bars and other establishments that serve alcohol only will close for operation. This includes nightclubs, lounges, taverns, arcades and private clubs.

City Council voted to approve this order during a regular meeting March 17.

The International Art & Kite Festival scheduled for March 28 has also been canceled, Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman also said that facilities such as gyms, shopping malls and theaters should be limited to no more than 10 people.

Some additional measures are in effect until March 27, including that any event sponsored or permitted by the city of Sugar Land will cease. This includes events at Smart Financial Centre and Constellation Field, Zimmerman said. Municipal court arraignments, court appearances and trials are also canceled and will be reset.

The Imperial Park Recreation Center and the Sugar Land Heritage Museum and Visitors Center are closed, Zimmerman said. All community meetings sponsored by the city will also be postponed. The T.E. Harman senior center is also closed.

"Washing hands and cleaning surfaces remains important, so the city of Sugar Land will not discontinue water service for anyone through March 27," Zimmerman said. "Outstanding bills will not be waived."

To view the mayor's full announcement, click here.

Updated 4:14 p.m., March 17

Fort Bend County Judge KP George, along with county health authority Jacquelyn Johnson Minter, issued an order to be effective March 18-31 requiring area restaurants to only offer drive-thru, takeout and delivery options. The order also calls for bars, nightclubs, lounges, taverns, arcades and private clubs to close.

The order applies to all incorporated and unincorporated portions of the county, according to a release from the judge's office March 17.

“We need to protect our parents, grandparents, and those who have chronic medical conditions," Minter said in the release. "It will take the entire community to slow the spread of COVID-19. “Science shows that proactive measures like this help flatten the curve and slow spread of COVID-19, especially when there is evidence of community spread in our region.”

Fort Bend County has nine reported cases of coronavirus.

“Minimizing the spread of COVID-19 is something that government officials cannot do alone. Enacting this order will protect our frontline emergency and medical personnel and those at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19,” George said. “From The White House to our regional partners, we agree that this situation requires all of us, including the young and healthy, to follow and make sacrifices if our community is going to remain healthy and intact. We must listen to the science, data, and medical experts to ensure we do all that we can to flatten the curve and spread of COVID-19.”

Posted 9:23 a.m., March 17

Fort Bend County Judge KP George, in conjunction with Fort Bend County Health & Human Services and Fort Bend County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, issued updated community guidelines Mach 16.

“The COVID-19 situation requires all of us, including the young and healthy, to become more disciplined and vigilant," George said in a release. "We understand that these additional guidelines will impact day-to-day life, but COVID-19 is not the common cold. Each of us must make personal sacrifices if our community is going to remain healthy and intact."

Among the guidelines, some new measures were put in place for workplaces and businesses. According to the release, spread from person to person can occur within 10 feet. These guidelines will be in effect until April 1.

With this, the county is calling for bars and clubs to suspend services or reduce hours and capacity while increasing the amount of time available for staff to clean and disinfect tables, chairs and bathrooms.

Restaurants are asked to limit service to delivery, takeout and drive-thru options instead of sit-down meals. Restaurants also have the option to decrease to 50% seating capacity to allow for social distancing. Patrons should avoid going to restaurants in groups greater than six and should use electronic payments to avoid handling cash and coins.

Employers are still encouraged to maximize
telecommuting options. Other options include staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people working in the same space, frequently cleaning and disinfecting workspaces, and prioritizing protective actions for employees at higher risk of illness.

Fort Bend County had nine identified COVID-19 cases as of March 13.

To get a more comprehensive look at guidelines Fort Bend County has issued, click here.
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.