Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough issued an order, effective immediately, declaring a public health emergency at a special meeting at noon March 12.

As of March 12, several individuals in Montgomery County have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The length of the order was extended from seven to 30 days by vote of Montgomery County Commissioners Court. It can be further extended or reduced by the court, Keough said, depending on how the situation changes over time.

“All individuals should limit community movement and adapt to the potential for disruption of activities,” Keough said.

The state of disaster means the Montgomery County Emergency Management Plan has been implemented, and an order effective at midnight March 13 prohibits any events sponsored or permitted by Montgomery County as well as any events with more than 250 people attending at public facilities in the county for the next 30 days. The order further encourages private facilities to cancel events with more than 250 people and asks nursing homes and senior living centers to limit public visitation.

The order does not extend to law-enforcement, emergency response, court operations, school districts or private school facilities, according to the order. County employees are still required to report to work as required by their supervisors, but they are to cease work-related travel, according to the order.

The declaration also means canceling the Montgomery County Fair, scheduled from March 27-April 5, among other events. The fair acknowledged in a Facebook post it will be canceled and not rescheduled.

“I think at this time, these are very prudent precautionary measures that we should take at the county level, and I would urge all private facilities hosting events over 250 people or more to strongly consider following the county’s guidance on this issue,” Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said at the meeting. “It is urgently important to contain or to minimize the spread of this virus in our community.”

Commissioners had several questions about how the order would be implemented, especially at events with an uncertain number of attendees, as well as whether postponement of the fair would be possible.

“I think we should look at all options,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador said regarding the future of the fair. “It’s a huge, huge planning effort by thousands of people.”

Keough said he is aware of the effect the announcement will have on those who had planned for that and other events, but he emphasized the need to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“In light of what has taken place, this was not an easy decision. ... We must do this to beat the peak,” Keough said.

Commissioners also discussed Little League games—whether they should be played without an audience or scheduled at staggered times to reduce the number of people in attendance.

Melissa Miller, chief operating officer of Montgomery County Hospital District, said the county has two presumptive cases as of the time of the special meeting: a man in his 40s and a woman in her 40s. In addition, she said the county has about 20 people under monitoring at home who are taking their temperatures twice daily and checking in with the hospital. She said the county considers a “person of interest” one who is symptomatic and being tested. There were 11 persons of interest at the time of the meeting, she said. Six others had come back negative.

“With this declaration, what we’re aiming for is to slow down the virus and allow health care facilities not to be overwhelmed with a tsunami of patients coming up positive,” she said. “We are looking at an effort ... to slow down spread from limited exposures and mass events.”

Dr. Robert Dickson, medical director for Montgomery County Hospital District, also spoke at the meeting and said an individual with symptoms and a risk factor, such as recent travel or close contact with a known case, could be tested for the virus, he said.

State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-The Woodlands, also spoke at the meeting and emphasized why the order was needed.

“We’ve seen areas of China where, in one day, ... the number of cases [has increased] by 40%,” he said. “We know that 80% of the positives are mild symptoms, and we know that another 20% are going to have difficulties. Maybe less than 5% would be at risk of being fatal. This is more about what do we do to look out for our parents and grandparents.”

The Montgomery County public health hotline is 888-25-9754.