It's happened. At a Tuesday morning press conference Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a "stay home, work safe" order for Harris County that begins at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday night and goes through April 3. During the order, people are only to go out for food and essential items, although the parks will remain open to allow people to get some exercise. "It became clear starting last week that we were going to need a blunter tool," Hidalgo explained. "The order, to be clear, is to stay home. Stay at home unless you must go out for groceries, or some fresh air, but otherwise stay home."
"If we don't act now, the situation will only get worse," Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "The message is clear: You must stay at home to blunt the progression of this COVID-19."
He also warned again that the numbers of those with coronavirus will rise, but stated that everyone must work together. He continued, his voice almost shaking with emotion, "My destiny is in your hands and your destiny is in my hands, and where we go from here will depend on how we change our behavior ... this is one time we are asking people within our region to stand together and act responsibly and block the spread of this virus."
"The best is yet ahead for all of us," Turner continued.
So what does this order mean?
Grocery stores and other essential businesses like pharmacies will remain open. Restaurants will remain open for takeout, delivery and drive-thru. The parks will remain open, but both Hidalgo and Turner have warned that this will only remain the case for as long as people are seen to be abiding by social distancing requirements. Daycares that supply support for essential workers, will also be allowed to stay open.
The order does not preclude workers in essential businesses, as defined by Homeland Security. There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof, according to Presidential Policy Directive 21. This includes waste and wastewater, healthcare and the public systems, IT, financial services, food and agriculture, emergency services, communications, the chemical sector, the energy sector, commercial facilities, and critical manufacturing.