HOUSTON – People who live in Harris County and the city of Houston have been ordered to stay home as leaders aim to stop the spread of coronavirus in the nation’s third-largest county.
The stay-home-work-safe order begins at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and is in effect until April 3, according to both Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
READ THE FULL ORDER:
It requires everyone to remain at home unless they are conducting essential business such as grocery shopping, picking up food or going to work at businesses that are deemed essential.
Public and private gatherings outside of a household or single living unit are prohibited.
Parks remain open, but the use of benches, playgrounds and workout equipment is prohibited.
The order also requires everyone to maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
Grocery stores and gas stations remain open. Restaurants can operate, but only as a take-out option.
People who violate the order can face a fine and up to 180 days in jail, but Hidalgo said law enforcement agents will exercise their discretion on whether someone will be charged.
Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said his officers will use “common sense” and “courtesy” while enforcing the order.
Hidalgo said data and modeling have shown that leaders must act now to blunt the impact of coronavirus and keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
Turner said he agrees that the order is necessary.
“The judge and I are standing together,” Turner said. “We are in a health care crisis."
The mayor said that he would rather err on the side of doing too much than not enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Neighboring Galveston County has also issued a stay-at-home order that begins at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.
Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist, said one person who has coronavirus can infect as many as three people.
Nearly 200 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Greater Houston area.
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