Stay Home - Work Safe order in effect for Houston, Harris Co.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Stay home order: Your questions answered
Now that the stay home, work safe order is in effect, here are some of the most common questions about what it means for the community.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A Stay Home - Work Safe Order is now in effect for Houston and Harris County residents to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

The order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and will last until April 3. It applies throughout Harris County, including unincorporated areas and all cities within the county.

WATCH: Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo explains Stay Home order

Judge Hidalgo says she announced the order Tuesday morning because health professionals said it was "go time."

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a tweet that people should stay home except for essential needs. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner echoed what Hidalgo said.

The decision was announced Tuesday morning at a joint press conference with Hidalgo and Turner.

"To put simply, this means that all of us should stay home unless our jobs are essential for the health and safety of our community," Hidalgo said.

"I can say to you without reservation that @HarrisCoJudge and I are standing together on this order. This is a public health crisis," Turner wrote.

According to the federal government's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency guidelines, there are 16 sectors considered essential:

  • Communications
  • Chemical
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Commercial Facilities
  • Dams
  • Defense Industrial Base
  • Emergency Services
  • Energy
  • Financial
  • Food & Agriculture
  • Government Facilities
  • Healthcare & Public Health
  • Information Technology
  • Nuclear Reactors, Materials and Waste
  • Transportation Systems
  • Water

Under the order, grocery stores will stay open, with Turner saying the food supply chain is sound.

Parks will remain open, but no playgrounds, benches, exercise equipment or basketball courts may be used. People who enjoy the outdoor spaces must maintain social distancing.

WATCH: Houston Mayor Turner explains what people should do during the order

Not sure what you should do in a 'stay home' order? Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner explains.

Restaurants can continue providing takeout and drive-thru service, but must maintain social distancing between customers as well.

In order to safely social distance, you must stay six feet away.

Day cares who provide care for employees of essential businesses can remain open.

Religious and worship services are to be streamed online only, but one-on-one counseling between leaders and parishioners is allowed in an effort to help with mental health.

SEE BELOW: Harris County's 'Stay Home' Order | SEE ALSO: What does the order mean for you?

The goal is to "flatten the curve" and to limit exposure and spread of the virus that has killed eight Texans and infected more than 340.

"My destiny is in your hands. Your destiny is in my hands. Where we go from here is dependent on how we recognize the crisis we are in," the mayor said.

Hidalgo said a fine or up to 180 days in jail will be enforced for violating the order.

Still, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said there is no desire to arrest people. Instead, the hope is that people will voluntarily comply.

However, citations are a possibility, with HCSO's Jason Spencer saying the enforcement focus, if any, will be on businesses open in violation of the order, not necessarily individuals.

After the press conference, Houston police chief Art Acevedo spoke.

"First of all, let's just make something clear. The city is not locked down," Acevedo said. "That couldn't be further from the truth."

"We're going to ask people when we think they're doing something that's in violation of this order, we're going to ask people to comply, and we believe that by using some compassion and common courtesy, we'll be able to be just fine," Acevedo said.

Three Houston police officers have tested positive for coronavirus due to job-related exposures. The officers are at home in self isolation, but are in good spirits.

WATCH: HPD Chief Acevedo breaks down enforcement of 'stay home' order

Here is what HPD Chief Art Acevedo said about enforcing the 'Stay Home - Work Safe' order across Houston.

HFD Chief Sam Pena is also asking that the public use 911 prudently and for true emergencies. But if you do call 911, and someone in your home has flu-like symptoms, please let dispatchers know so that first responders can be prepared.

Pena said Tuesday over 30 firefighters are in quarantine after one of their colleagues tested positive for coronavirus. The firefighter who tested positive had worked a 24-hour shift.

Hidalgo first addressed the stay-at-home order in a press conference Monday.

"Shelter-in-place is not the right term for our region," she said.

Tuesday morning, Turner also said the shelter-in-place terminology should not be used.

"We have faced major storms. We have faced mass shootings. We have faced chemical releases. And in those times, we have asked people to shelter in place. And that terminology 'shelter in place' should be reserved for shootings, explosions, major storm events, mainly events like Harvey, when we ask people to shelter in place. This is another type of crisis," the mayor said.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a shelter-in-place order that took effect Monday night at 11:59.

Hidalgo addressed claims made by Jenkins about Harris County's order before it was issued.

"Obviously, I know Judge Jenkins made a comment, I believe last night. You know we're all in constant communication. (I) can't control what other folks say," Hidalgo said. "Judge Jenkins and I generally work very closely together. I work most closely with Mayor Turner, with Judge George, our regional judges. I've been in touch with other counties, and we're working together on this, but of course we're also in touch with the larger counties, whether that be Tarrant or Dallas or Travis. We are all in constant communication."

Hidalgo was also asked whether she had left Harris County over the weekend. "No, I did not. We've all been working, you know, almost 24/7."

"We aren't exaggerating when we say staying at home and social distancing is a matter of life and death," Hidalgo told reporters. "Please, unless you absolutely need to be out, stay home."

Dr. Umair Shah with Harris County Public Health said we are seeing the virus spread in the community now. Of the cases in Harris County, about half of them were community spread.

"We've got to slow this virus down. Please do everything you can to stay at home. Please do everything you can to limit your interactions with others," Dr. Shah said.

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Hidalgo also addressed releasing people from jail in the county who are not a threat to the public.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said last week that his office would look to increase "compassionate" releases to avoid COVID-19 from getting inside the jail and spreading quickly.

PREVIOUS STORY: Arrests by HCSO drop, inmates in Harris Co. jail to be released amid COVID-19 threat

Hidalgo said an order was issued on Friday for people with non-violent offenses to be released from jail.

As of last week, the sheriff's office said the jail population is roughly 8,500, compared to 9,100 just a few weeks ago.

Still, the Harris County District Attorney's Office said there is no plan to avoid arresting violent criminals.

Over the weekend, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Houston area rose, including the first known cases in Liberty and Chambers counties and a second case in Grimes County that's related to the first one there.

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