Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced a stay-at-home order for Houston and Harris County on Tuesday morning during a press conference.
In all public circumstances, people must social distance, which is to stay six feet or more away from each other.
Essential businesses include grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and daycares. The Port of Houston and energy industry firms also are staying open. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called them essential to the local economy. Health care and energy are among the 16 essential critical infrastructure sectors.
Everyone can leave home to care for a family member or pet in another household. Restaurants open for takeout and delivery orders.
All private gatherings outside of people’s homes are prohibited. This is in line with an order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott banning gatherings of more than 10 people.
Parks will stay open, but exercise equipment and any other hard surfaces that can be touched and potentially hold the virus will be off limits.
The Houston-area order begins tonight at 11:59 p.m. and ends on April 3.
Hidalgo expressed concern about getting supplies from the federal government. She said a shipment was received last Friday, and it allowed the coronavirus testing program to launch this past weekend, but this shipment will last through only today.
COVID-19 testing may have to stop until supplies are replenished.
So far, 2,500 people have used the www.ReadyHarris.org online screening tool, which is required before visiting the government-run testing sites.
Hidalgo and Turner join officials in Dallas and Bexar counties, who have issued shelter-in-place orders. Travis County is expected to issue an order later this morning.
Hidalgo said this decision came after looking at the data and consulting health care providers and other experts.
“Models show we far exceed the ICU beds in this county unless we take drastic steps,” she said.
“In our region, and beyond Harris country, there are 160 confirmed cases. It’s our hope that we don’t have 1,600 cases,” Turner said. “In the city of Houston, we have 24 cases at this time.”
“My destiny is in your hands, and your destiny is in my hands, and where we go from here, in large part, will depend on how we change our behavior to recognize the crisis we are in,” Turner said.