HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- All bars and nightclubs in Harris County, including those in the county's unincorporated areas, have been ordered to shut down in order to maintain social distancing, Judge Lina Hidalgo announced on Monday.
The closure order is set to begin Tuesday, March 17 at 8 a.m. and will last for 15 days until further notice.
Hidalgo said all of the county's restaurants must only offer drive-thru and delivery services and must shut down any dining areas.
"Unless you need to go out, stay home and stay away from crowds," said Hidalgo.
"None of these decisions that we're having to make are easy decisions," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "They are simply not easy. Especially when you recognize that when you're making a decision, you're impacting people's livelihoods."
Harris County Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen said a hotline has been set up for people to report any sightings of overcrowding at bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
She also said citations carrying up to a $2,000 fine may be issued.
"We will be going out and working with the community. Our goal here is compliance," said Christensen. "We want to help educate the community. If we see a restaurant or a bar that's open, we're going to make sure they understand this order is in place."
Christensen said Harris County is working with surrounding counties on consistency plans.
With the number of confirmed cases in Texas exceeding 50, many residents are becoming fearful of being contaminated while in the public.
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A spokesperson of Governor Greg Abbott released a statement on Sunday saying Abbott is confident that cities will make the best decision for their communities. However, he believes closing bars and eateries would drive panic and complete societal breakdown.
Officials are encouraging many restaurants to close dining-areas and begin promoting take-out, delivery and to-go orders with hopes to limit public interactions.
The statement went on to say that more than 50% of food eaten by Texans come from restaurants. Remarks were also made concerning students who will be out of school for more than a week, fearing they wouldn't have a place to stop and get a meal.
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All Harris County bars and nightclubs ordered to shut down