GUIDE: Keep up with coronavirus announcements in Tomball, Magnolia

Bookmark this story for the latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting Tomball and Magnolia. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Bookmark this story for the latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting Tomball and Magnolia. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Bookmark this story for the latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting Tomball and Magnolia. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Image description
Tomball officials declared a public health emergency and state of disaster March 20. Council members practiced social distancing during the emergency council meeting. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
This story will be updated with outbreak-related news and links to other in-depth coverage.

Here are the updates you need to know in Tomball and Magnolia amid the new coronavirus outbreak, categorized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, that have led to this point.

March 26:

  • The city of Magnolia will hold a special city council meeting by teleconference March 26 at 7 p.m. Agenda items include voting to postpone the May 2 mayoral election to Nov. 3 and extend the declaration of local disaster.

March 24:

  • Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a mandatory order requiring all Harris County residents to stay home if they do not work a job that is considered essential to the health and safety of the community. The order goes into effect at midnight March 25 through April 3. This order applies to unincorporated portions of Harris County as well as cities within the county, including the city of Tomball.

  • At the March 24 Montgomery County Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge Mark Keough said he is not planning on issuing such an order as neighboring counties have.

  • Although parks remain open in Harris County at this time, the city of Tomball is requesting residents do not use playgrounds, tables or benches at city parks.

  • Amid Harris County's "Stay Home, Work Safe" order, restaurants remain able to offer to-go and delivery. Check out which restaurants are open for takeout.

  • The city of Magnolia's offices are closed to the public until further notice, city officials announced.

March 23:

  • Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman announced the county's primary election runoffs have been postponed from May 26 to July 14. This follows a proclamation by Gov. Greg Abbott on March 20 postponing the runoff elections to July 14 to help mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus, according to a release from his office.

  • Montgomery County Animal Shelter launched new operational measures during the coronavirus outbreak, announcing it will close to the public temporarily but continue to offer appointments for its services. The shelter is still offering pet adoptions, fosters, a live camera feed and other services as of March 23.

  • The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County stopped collecting fares on local buses, light rail, Park & Rides and METROLift. Local bus routes are also operating on a Saturday schedule beginning March 23.

  • The Greater Houston area is rolling out coronavirus testing this week. Learn more here.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include Rob Hauck as city manager of Tomball, not city administrator, as well as reflect the city of Magnolia's disaster declaration.

March 20:

Tomball officials declared a public health emergency and state of disaster March 20 as City Council members met for an emergency meeting. The disaster declaration remains in effect until May 20 unless council opts to discontinue the declaration prior to that deadline, City Manager Rob Hauck said.

The city of Magnolia declared a local disaster March 19, according to a proclamation listed on the city's website. The proclamation, signed by Magnolia Mayor Todd Kana, is in effect for seven days. Council approval would be needed to extend the disaster declaration further.

“We don’t take this action lightly,” Tomball Mayor Gretchen Fagan said after council adopted the ordinance. “But our responsibility is to protect the citizens of Tomball, and this declaration will help us do just that.”

The declaration allows the city to recover costs for disaster-related expenses, enhance mutual aid assistance with more personnel and supplies, and suspends certain purchasing rules the city would need to meet under traditional circumstances—such as needing to receive three bids before making a purchase, Hauck said.

“While there is certainly no need to panic as we come together to discuss a local disaster declaration, it is my strong belief that now is the time to declare a local disaster,” Hauck said during the meeting. “We continue to see a rise in the cases of coronavirus in northwest Harris County and now had at least one death [in this quadrant]. ... We’re beginning to incur expenses directly related to the COVID-19 mitigation and management efforts.”

A man age 80-90 identified as a positive coronavirus case and resident of a nursing home in northwest Harris County died March 19 at a hospital, the first coronavirus-related death in the county, Harris County Public Health officials announced March 19.

“Our expenses related to direct support are only going to increase, and a big part of what this local disaster declaration will do is allow us to submit for reimbursement to both the state and federal governments,” Hauck said.

Hauck said the city’s Emergency Operations Center stands at a Level 3 as of March 20, meaning a partial activation, up from a Level 4.

The disaster declaration has no immediate effect on local businesses and entities, Hauck said. On the contrary; a declaration of local disaster could help local businesses in need receive federal funding.

“It actually [could] possibly assist businesses [in receiving federal funding] because we are declared a local disaster,” he said.

However, the declaration also allows city officials to take future actions, such as implementing curfews or establishing a shelter-in-place order, Hauck said. He said he suspects Harris County health officials, however, would call for a shelter-in-place order before the city of Tomball would. Such an order by the county would apply to incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county, he said.

Hauck said any future actions could be established short-term by the mayor but would need to be extended by a City Council vote.

“Take this serious, but [do] not panic,” Hauck said, urging residents to stay calm.

The disaster declaration remains in effect until May 20 but can be discontinued by council prior to that date or extended for a longer time period as long as council votes to renew the disaster declaration within 61 days, City Attorney Loren Smith said.

“Nothing about today’s action changes anything for the members of our community at this time,” Fagan said.

March 19:

  • Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order limiting social gatherings to 10 people, prohibiting all dine-in services, and closing all gyms as well as banning visitors from nursing homes across the state from midnight March 20 through midnight April 3. See what local restaurants are offering to-go and delivery services in Tomball and Magnolia.

  • Lone Star College System announced it would cancel graduation ceremonies across its campuses this spring. All campuses are currently closed until April 13.

March 18:

  • Montgomery County updated its guidelines on restaurants and businesses effective 8 a.m. Thursday, March 19, requiring all restaurants to cease on-site dining until April 2 and all bars, clubs, gyms and movie theaters to close during that time.

  • Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation to allow political subdivisions, such as local cities, to postpone their May 2020 local elections. The city of Magnolia and Montgomery County Emergency Services District No. 10 currently have elections scheduled for May 2. It is unclear how these elections may be affected by this proclamation.

  • TOMAGWA HealthCare Ministries announced the organization would suspend most on-site patient services and move to telehealth through March 30.

  • Abbott issued a waiver to allow restaurant patrons ordering food for delivery to also be able to order beer, wine and mixed drinks to go.

  • Tomball and Magnolia ISDs announce plans to begin remote learning activities March 23.

March 17:

  • Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough issued an order limiting restaurants in the county to a total occupancy of 50 people at any given time until April 1, effective 3 p.m. March 17.

  • Harris County leaders extended the county's coronavirus disaster declaration from March 18 to March 25.

March 16:

  • Tomball and Magnolia ISDs announced suspending normal district operations through April 10.

  • In Montgomery County, Judge Mark Keough signed an amended occupancy order to lower the attendance limit at public gatherings to less than 50 people.

  • Montgomery County Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said all nonemergency activities in Precinct 2 would cease.

  • Harris County and city of Houston officials announced all bars must close and restaurants were ordered to only offer takeout, effective 8 a.m. March 17 for 15 days. This includes all businesses in the city of Tomball.

  • Gov. Greg Abbott waives State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness for districts across Texas.

March 14:

  • The Lone Star College-Tomball Community Library was closed through March 22. In Tomball ISD, Superintendent Martha Salazar-Zamora urged all TISD students and staff to report travel outside of Texas via a confidential survey.

March 13:

  • Gov. Greg Abbott announced a state of disaster for all counties in the state of Texas, which authorizes the usual of all available and necessary state government resources to help prepare and respond to the new coronavirus.

  • During an emergency board meeting, Tomball ISD discussed its response to the new coronavirus, announcing free meals would be provided to all TISD students while schools are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

  • Magnolia ISD officials announced the district would serve free meals to students beginning March 17.

  • The Tomball Farmers Market announced it would be closed until further notice.

March 12:

  • Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough signed a 30-day disaster declaration, declaring a public health emergency and canceling the Montgomery County Fair.

  • Officials from Harris and Montgomery counties recommended gatherings of more than 250 people be canceled or postponed through the end of March.

  • Tomball ISD canceled classes from March 16-20, extending Spring Break.

  • Magnolia ISD announced classes would remain closed through March 20.

March 11:

  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the remainder of the 2020 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was canceled in an effort to slow the spread of area coronavirus cases.

  • Montgomery County Precinct 2 announced the West Montgomery County Community Development Center would be closed temporarily beginning March 12.

  • Officials with the city of Tomball and Tomball German Heritage Festival announced the three-day German Heritage Festival slated for March 27-29 and the Honky Tonk Chili Challenge slated for March 21 are cancelled as a precautionary measure to slow the spread of coronavirus.

March 10:

  • Montgomery County officials announced the county's first case of the coronavirus.

March 5:

  • Harris County officials announce the county's first two confirmed cases of COVID-19, also known as the new coronavirus.

By Anna Lotz

Editor, Tomball/Magnolia & Conroe/Montgomery

Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor for the Tomball/Magnolia edition. She began covering the communities of Conroe and Montgomery as well in 2020. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.