What are 'essential businesses' under Harris County's Stay Home - Work Safe order?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a Stay Home - Work Safe Order for Harris County residents effective at midnight to help fight the spread of COVID-19.


The order will last until April 3.

Harris County residents are ordered to stay home unless participating in essential activities or working for an essential business.

So how are those defined?

Essential Activities:
  • Tasks related to your health and safety or that of your family, such as filling prescriptions, visiting a health care professional or getting supplies in order to work from home
  • Getting necessary supplies or services for yourself or your family, such as buying groceries or pet food
  • Engaging in outdoor activities, like walking, running, biking, hiking or fishing

  • Essential Businesses:
  • Essential Critical Infrastructure: Work necessary to the operations and maintenance of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with social distancing requirements of six feet to the extent possible.

  • Essential Government Functions: All services provided by local governments and municipalities located in Harris County needed to ensure their continuing operation to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public, including law enforcement, jail operations and other services.

  • Essential City of Houston Government Functions: All services provided by the City of Houston that the Mayor of the City of Houston determines to be essential Government Functions.

  • Essential Healthcare Operations: Healthcare operations, including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, mental health providers, substance abuse service providers, blood banks, medical research, laboratory services, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. Home-based and residential-based care for seniors, adults, or children are also considered healthcare operations. Healthcare operations also include veterinary care and all health and welfare services provided to animals. This exemption shall be viewed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare.

  • Essential Retail: Food producers and service providers, including grocery stores, warehouse stores, furniture suppliers, big box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, farmers' markets that sell food products and household staples. Food cultivation, including farming, ranching, fishing, and livestock. Food production, including the production of canned goods, bottled beverages and other grocery items. Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery, drive-thru or carry-out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free services to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only. The restriction of delivery or carry-out does not apply to cafes and restaurants located within hospital and medical facilities. Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers. Gas stations, auto supply, auto and bicycle repair, hardware stores, and related facilities. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home.

  • Can I still go to the store to buy groceries?

    Yes, grocery stores will remain open during the order. However, all grocers will be required to keep customers at least six feet apart to meet social distancing standards. Health officials don't recommend leaving the house unless it's an absolute necessity.

    Can I go to church?

    No, all Harris County churches will be required to host religious services online only. There can be exceptions made for one-on-one meetings for spiritual and mental health, but individuals involved must maintain social distancing requirements.

    Can I still visit public parks?

    Yes, all public parks will remain open. However, visitors must stay six feet apart from one another. All public benches, exercise equipment, playgrounds and basketball courts will be closed to eliminate contact.

    What if I need to leave my house to care for someone else, such as en elderly relative?

    You are allowed to leave your home for emergency/essential care of family members, pets, and other loved ones.

    Are restaurants closing?

    No, Harris County restaurants are still allowed to serve to-go and drive-thru orders, but customers picking up food will be required to stay six feet apart.

    Hidalgo says individuals who violate these restrictions could face a fine or up to 180 days in jail.

    Can I go to work?

    Yes, but only if you are deemed an employee essential for public health and safety, such as grocery store employees, health care providers and more. Those whose jobs are deemed essential are expected to maintain social distancing standards in the workplace.

    Will nail, hair and other beauty salons be open?

    Hair and nail salons, spas, licensed massage businesses and tattoo parlors, concert halls, live performance theaters, arenas, stadiums, movie theaters, game rooms, bowling alleys, arcades, indoor and outdoor flea markets and swap meets, indoor malls, indoor shopping centers, and bingo halls shall close.

    The county says you can call 832-839-6941 to report bars and restaurants operating in violation of current public health orders.

    According to the federal government's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency guidelines, there are 16 sectors considered essential:
  • Communications
    This includes media, as well as phone, internet, satellite and wireless transmission providers.

  • Chemical
    This includes businesses involved in the manufacture, storage, uses and transportation of chemicals.

  • Critical Manufacturing
    Among the businesses included in this sector are metals and machine manufacturing, as well as vehicles such as cars and airplanes.

  • Commercial Facilities
    Commercial facilities covers a range of sites such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

  • Dams
    Businesses involving irrigation and flood control fall under this sector, along with drinking water supplies and hydro-power energy.

  • Defense Industrial Base
    This sector includes the military as well as companies that provide resources to the Department of Defense.

  • Emergency Services
    Law enforcement, firefighters, EMS and public works departments are included in this sector, along with private security organizations.

  • Energy
    Industries that provide electricity to households and businesses, fuel to the transportation industry and other sources of energy are covered under this sector. Utilities companies and gas stations would fall under this division.

  • Financial

    Banks, credit unions and other financial institutions, as well as investment companies, are covered under the financial sector.

  • Food & Agriculture
    Restaurants fall under the category of food and agriculture. Farms, food processing and food storage facilities would also be included. Food pantries, including the Houston Food Bank, are among the businesses considered essential.

  • Government Facilities
    Government facilities include federal, state and local offices, including courthouses and systems involved with elections and voting.

  • Healthcare & Public Health
    Doctors offices, dental offices, medical clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and COVID-19 testing sites are among the essential businesses in this sector.

  • Information Technology
    Internet providers are including in this essential sector.

  • Nuclear Reactors, Materials and Waste
    Power providers are under this sector, as well as some waste handling involving medical isotopes used to treat cancer patients.

  • Transportation Systems
    The transportation sector includes trucking and moving of necessary goods, as well as public transportation. This also includes auto shops, that will remain open.

  • Water
    Water and wastewater treatment facilities are included in this essential sector.

  • Hardware stores and construction sites are open

    They are considered: Infrastructure, Development.

    Operation and Construction. For example, public works construction, construction of housing or other types of construction including commercial, manufacturing, airport operations and aircraft manufacturing, maintenance or repair, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services).

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