The virus isn’t gone

Harris County Extends Stay-Home Orders Until May 20

We breakdown how Hidalgo’s order relates to Gov. Abbott’s plan to reopen the state.

By Catherine Wendlandt May 4, 2020

Updated 4:20 p.m. May 5

In a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott announced dates to reopen more nonessential businesses:

  • Cosmetology, hair, and tanning salons and barbershops can open this Friday, May 8, under these guidelines: One customer per stylist. People can only wait inside if six-feet distancing can be maintained. It was strongly recommended that customers and employees wear face masks. 
  • On May 18, gyms can open at 25 percent capacity within the gym. Showers and locker rooms must remain closed at this time. Equipment must be disinfected after each use, and customers must wear gloves and maintain six-feet distancing between other people.
  • Nonessential manufacturers can reopen on May 18 as well, with a 25 percent occupancy, a staggered workforce, and social distancing practices between employees.
  • Office building businesses can reopen on May 18 under certain circumstances. They can open up to the greater of five employees or 25 percent of workforce, provided they can maintain social distancing. 

As the governor's order supersedes any locally made order, the extended Harris County order, which is now scheduled to end May 20, would not apply to the nonessential businesses that Abbott discussed today past the dates that the governor announced. 

Published 2:44 p.m. May 4

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has extended the “stay home” orders through May 20, but what does that actually mean?

Under the extended order:

  • People are advised to minimize social gatherings to family units and minimize in-person contact with people outside of their homes. Exceptions include essential activities as well as activities reopened by Gov. Abbott on April 27.
  • All nonessential businesses that were not included in the governor’s order must remain closed.
  • Bars, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, and gyms cannot reopen at this time.
  • People cannot visit nursing homes, state supported living centers, assisted living facilities, or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.

Read the full order here

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that all restaurants and retail centers, including malls, movie theaters, and shopping centers, could reopen May 1 so long as they kept their occupancy to 25 percent. Libraries and museums could also reopen on May 1, and outdoor sports, with four people or less playing, could resume as well. Faith-based gatherings could also resume meeting, under the stipulation that social distancing guidelines would be followed. If Texas showed no dramatic increase in cases, then businesses would be allowed increase capacity to 50 percent.

As part of his order, Abbott declared that no local government could issue orders that superseded his own declaration.

After Abbott’s announcement, both Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner expressed doubt and fear about the move, stating that they did not believe the Houston area was not ready to reopen. “As the epicenter of COVID-19 in Texas, we in Harris County can’t take our eye off the ball,” Hidalgo said last week.

As of April 30, the last day of the governor’s stay-home order, Houston had 3,613 total cases of COVID-19, and 56 deaths.

On May 1, Hidalgo warned “not so fast” to businesses wanting to reopen. That evening, she released the extended order, while noting it fit within the perimeters of Abbott’s declaration.

Turner has also announced an extended, modified stay-home order. While he cannot contradict the governor’s order, Turner has said that all city programs and events are canceled through the end of May, and city employees will continue to work from home through the end of May as well. The Houston Public Library and the city’s golf courses will also continue to be closed through May.

If all of this seems a tad confusing, we understand. So we broke down how and when all of this happened. 

A timeline of Events

March 11

After cancelling RodeoHouston, Mayor Turner signs a seven-day, citywide public health emergency, which Hidalgo soon followed with her own county-wide order. Under Turner’s directive, all city-related or city-sponsored events through March were cancelled or rescheduled. However, city employees were still expected to be at work. At this point, only 14 people had either tested positive or were presumed positive for COVID-19 in the Houston area. 

March 13

Abbott declares a statewide disaster. Through this declaration, the governor directed state agencies to lock down and intensely screen visitation to nursing homes, prisons, and juvenile homes.

President Donald Trump declares a national disaster, which allows hospitals to expand how they care for patients, how all of the health system can handle this crisis going forward.

March 16

Hidalgo closes all bars and restaurants in Harris County for 15 days. As part of the order, restaurants could only offer delivery, pick-up and drive-thru service, and all bars and clubs had to close.

Earlier that day, the CDC issued new guidelines for people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. 

March 17

The city extends Mayor Turner’s declaration of public disaster indefinitely. All city sponsored, produced, and permitted events through April were postponed and the public library would be closed through March.

March 18

Harris County extends its disaster declaration for one week. At this point, there are 40 cases of COVID-19 in Houston, and 13 cases in Harris County outside of the city.

March 19

Abbott declares a public health disaster in Texas, shutting down all bars, gyms, restaurant dining rooms, and schools. The order went into place on March 20 and was scheduled to end on April 3.

March 24

In a joint press conference with Turner, Hidalgo issues a county-wide “Stay Home, Work Safe Order.” Through this order, all nonessential businesses were ordered to close. Grocery stores, pharmacies, parks, daycares and restaurants (for delivery, drive-thru, or takeout only) could remain open. The order was scheduled to end on April 3, the same day Abbott’s public disaster declaration was set to expire.

March 25

President Trump declares a major disaster in Texas, which opened up new sources of federal assistance for Texans.

March 31

Gov. Abbott issues a stay-home order through April 30. The order, essentially the same as the stay-home-work-safe order Harris County declared, also order schools to remain closed through May 4. People were still allowed to go to grocery stores and pharmacies, as well as hunt and fish.

Hidalgo extends the Harris County stay home order through April 30.

April 17

Abbott announces plans to reopen Texas. State parks, which had been closed since April 7, would be reopened April 20. Effective April 22, some of the current restrictions on surgery would be lifted, allowing for more elective medical procedures, like cancer diagnostic tests, and on April 24, retail businesses could resume to-go sales. All schools were to remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

April 23

After denying an order like this would be made for weeks, Hidalgo and Turner order all Harris County residents to wear face coverings when out in public for 30 days, beginning April 27. The order would be enforceable, Hidalgo said, although Mayor Turner, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez all said they would not issue citations.

As of April 21, Harris County accounted for almost 25 percent of Texas’s 20,196 cases of COVID-19. 

April 27

Abbott officially unveils his plan to reopen Texas. He would not renew the stay-home order, which would expire on April 30.

In a particular blow to Hidalgo and Turner, Abbott declared that no local government can enforce a face mask order—Harris County’s order went into effect that morning—after April 30. Although the governor did encourage the public to wear a face covering, he himself was not wearing a face covering during this announcement.

April 30

Turner announces that the city’s stay-home order would be extended, albeit modified to fit Gov. Greg Abbott’s order. All city-permitted and sponsored events would continue to be cancelled or rescheduled through May, city employees would continue to work from home, and the Houston Public Library would remain closed during that time as well.

May 1

Hidalgo extends the Harris County stay-home order through May 20.

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