Looking back on Montgomery County's COVID-19 response through 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic was a top concern in Montgomery County through 2020. (Courtesy Pexels)
The COVID-19 pandemic was a top concern in Montgomery County through 2020. (Courtesy Pexels)

The COVID-19 pandemic was a top concern in Montgomery County through 2020. (Courtesy Pexels)

From the identification of Montgomery County's first COVID-19 case in March, through local shutdowns and reopenings, and an ongoing public health response leading up to vaccination preparations at the end of the year, the coronavirus pandemic remained a top priority throughout the county in 2020. Here are some of the year's top updates related to to COVID-19.

March 10: Arrival of COVID-19 in Montgomery County confirmed

The first of more than 26,000 COVID-19 cases identified in Montgomery County this year was announced by the Montgomery County Public Health District and Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management March 10. The patient, a man in his 40s, was receiving treatment in a local hospital at the time of the announcement.

March 12: Public health emergency declared

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough announced the first of several coronavirus-related emergency items implemented in 2020, a 30-day disaster declaration, on March 12. The measure cancelled events of 250 or more people at county facilities and encouraged similar restrictions at private facilities, as well as limited visitations at senior living facilities.

“All individuals should limit community movement and adapt to the potential for disruption of activities,” Keough said at a special meeting of the commissioners court.

March 16: Gathering limits

Within days of its issuance, Keough amended his initial order to limit public gatherings to 50 people or less while requesting that private businesses ad gatherings adhere to the same limit.

March 17-18: Business restrictions begin

Keough issued an occupancy order for county restaurants, bars and clubs March 17 limiting on-site capacity to 50 people or less and movie theaters to 25 people or less per screen. That order was updated March 18 to mandate closure of all on-site dining, and of all operations at bars, clubs, movie theaters and gyms.

March 24-25: Further restrictions opposed, then implemented

Keough said March 24 he did not plan to add further limitations related to COVID-10, while neighboring Greater Houston counties enacted shelter-in-place orders.

"At this point, we are not [enacting a shelter-in-place order],” Keough said March 24. “We’re no longer putting any more restrictions on what we have.”

The following day, Keough signed an amended emergency order that extended mandated business closures to salons and tattoo parlors and blocked nonessential visitors from county nursing homes.

March 27: Stay-at-home order and curfew enacted, extended

A stay-at-home order and nightly curfew for county residents and nonessential businesses was issued by Keough March 27, and extended March 31 through the month of April.

April 1: First COVID-19 deaths reported

Weeks after first identifying the disease in the county, officials announced two deaths related to COVID-19 at a senior living facility in The Woodlands. The first county fatalities were two men in their 80s and 90s who resided at The Conservatory at Alden Bridge.

April 17: Stay-home order lifted

As Texas began preparing to reopen in the spring, Keough terminated the county's Stay at Home, Stop the Spread order and nightly curfews.

April 28-May 1: Officials push for full reopening

County officials in late April said an April 27 order from Gov. Greg Abbott outlining the state's phased reopening would allow all county businesses affected by COVID-19 restrictions to fully reopen. While the governor's order maintained some capacity limits and closures, Keough said the order could allow for a return to regular business operations.

“The objective is not to go rogue on the state of Texas nor on the governor,” Keough said April 28. “[The order] is vague, and on Friday when this thing comes off, we are going to assume these establishments are open.”

Keough said on May 1 that the Texas Attorney General's Office contacted the county to clarify that mandated business restrictions should remain in place.

May 13: County testing program begins

Following its approval in April, officials announced the first county-sponsored COVID-19 testing program for residents was set to begin May 13. Through the program, residents could each obtain one voucher for a free test at select locations in the county.

July 3: Officials push back on mask mandate

After Abbott announced that most Texans would be required to wear face coverings in public places and businesses July 2, county government and law enforcement officials pushed back on the governor's order. Keough expressed disappointment in the order as an issue of personal freedom, and the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said in a statement it would not take action to enforce the new measure.

Nov. 11: Public testing program ends

The county's free COVID-19 testing voucher program came to an end Nov. 11, officials announced Nov. 10. Around 10,000 county residents participated in the program from May through November.

Dec. 8-15: Coronavirus aid distributed

County commissioners approved reimbursements to local municipalities for some expenses related to their pandemic responses Dec. 8, using county funding received through the first federal coronavirus relief package. Commissioners finalized their coronavirus aid spending Dec. 15 by allocating $8.9 million in remaining funding for 2021 public safety expenses. Some other portions of the federal aid received by the county this year had previously been used to support local school districts.

Dec. 30: A year-end surge

The county's active COVID-19 case count rose more rapidly through the month of December than at any other point during the pandemic. Montgomery County reported new record numbers of active cases daily throughout the month, concluding the year with 7,890 active cases, and cumulative totals of 26,650 cases and 187 deaths reported.

Additional coverage of the coronavirus pandemic throughout Texas may be found here.
By Ben Thompson
Ben joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2019 and is a reporter for The Woodlands edition.


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