Harris Co. disaster declaration, mask order extended

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Harris County Commissioners have voted to extend the recently-issued mask order until August 26.

The order directs any businesses providing goods or services to require all employees and visitors to wear face coverings in areas of close proximity to co-workers or the public.

READ MORE: Breakdown of mask orders in Harris and surrounding counties

Just a day before Tuesday's decision, Judge Lina Hidalgo vowed to ask for the commission's approval to extend the county's COVID-19 disaster declaration, which would allow for the mask order extension.

"I will be requesting an extension on the disaster declaration, and if I'm granted that extension from my colleagues, then I do plan to extend the requirement for businesses to require masks from their employees and their patrons," said the judge on Monday during a Zoom meeting.

She took questions one day after she announced she was in self-quarantine after a member of her office tested positive for COVID-19.

"I am feeling great," said the judge during Monday's Zoom meeting. "I don't feel anything different. I feel strong and have plenty of work to do. I've had a lot of people send me messages saying, 'I'm so glad you're resting,' but resting is the last thing I'm doing."

Hidalgo discussed the county's efforts to flatten the curve, her discussions with Gov. Greg Abbott and her fight for the authority to issue another stay-at-home order after local officials lifted the previous one.

"The governor has taken some steps, which are great and they're necessary [such as] making sure that the bars are closed," explained Hidalgo. "My fear is we don't have any proof that alone will do it. There is no evidence from a community that was on the verge of disaster, and they put the restaurants at 50 percent capacity and suddenly, everything is fine. The only thing we know works is a stay-at-home order, and anything short of that is a gamble on our own people."

READ MORE: Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo wants authority to issue 2nd stay-at-home order

When asked if she's noticed a change in behavior from the public after increasing the COVID-19 threat level in the area to red, which means it's severe, she said she's content with what she's seeing, but would like to see more.

READ MORE: What to know about Harris County's new face mask order

"I've noticed some change," explained Hidalgo. "I'm very heartened by the community recognizing that we have to take steps. Now the concern is I know it doesn't have as much of an impact if it's a recommendation as a opposed to a requirement, and that's not a knock on the community."
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