HOUSTON – Local, state and national leaders held press conferences Tuesday afternoon and evening to make major announcements about the response to coronavirus, social distancing, stay home orders and more.
Here are the key takeaways from each of these officials:
1. Stay home order extended in Houston-area
Houston and Harris County
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo extended the week-long “Stay Home, Work Safe” order to continue till 11:59 p.m. on April 30, she announced in a press conference Tuesday. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner joined Hidalgo during the press conference. Both said if things change, they will lift the order, but health officials have been unanimous in advising the extended order. Read more here.
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough also extended the “stay home” order for the county through April 30.
“With President Trump extending his call for social distancing through the end of April and Governor Abbott issuing his Executive Order today which adopts the 16 critical infrastructure industries who are deemed essential closing all non-essential businesses, Montgomery County’s order is extended to match both the state and federal orders," the county announced in news release.
While Abbott avoided the words “shelter-in-place” or “stay home order" during his press conference Tuesday, he signed an executive order that stated in part that “every person in Texas shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services, minimize social gatherings and minimize in-person contact with people who are not in the same household.”
“(The Executive Order) renews the Governor’s directive to avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, and visiting gyms or massage establishments, and it expands the order to include tattoo studios, piercing studios, and cosmetology salons,” the governor’s office announced.
Abbott’s executive order will remain in place until April 30.
See a list of “essential businesses” that are exempt from the order.
2. Harris County Judge says she wants to release about 1,000 inmates from jail
Hidalgo announced Tuesday afternoon that along with extending the “stay home, work safe” order through April 30, she will also be signing an order to release about 1,000 non-violent offenders from the Harris County Jail.
Hidalgo said that at present, there are about 8,000 inmates in the Harris County Jail leaving little opportunity for social distancing within the jail. As of Tuesday, Hidalgo said there was one inmate who had tested positive, two dozen inmates with symptoms and about 1,100 asymptomatic inmates who were under observation. She described the jail as “a ticking time bomb” that had the potential to be the “epicenter of a catastrophe.”
3. Officials believe coronavirus cases will peak in coming weeks
Turner, Abbott and President Donald Trump all echoed the same sentiment in the last few days.
Trump said in a news conference Tuesday that Americans needed to brace themselves for a “rough two-week period.” In an exclusive interview with KPRC 2, Abbott previously said he expected the peak of the virus to impact Texas in April. In a press conference Tuesday, Turner said he expected the Houston-area to see the peak of the virus by May 2.
Overall, the sentiment was the same: It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
4. White House says up to 240,000 people in the US will die from coronavirus
The White House on Tuesday projected 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic if current social distancing guidelines are maintained. Trump called American efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “a matter of life and death” and urged the public to heed his administration’s social distancing guidelines.
Trump called on Americans to brace themselves for a “rough two-week period” but predicted the country would soon see a “light at the end of the tunnel” of the global catastrophe that has killed more than 3,500 Americans and infected 170,000 more.
5. Texas school closures extended through May 4
Abbott announced Tuesday that he is extending all Texas school closures through May 4 in order to continue to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
The governor announced the executive order from Austin Tuesday, saying it would bring the state in line with the federal guidance urging social distancing that President Donald Trump announced.
6. Religious services considered ‘essential’ in Texas
As part of Abbott’s Tuesday executive order, a list of “essential services” was listed on the Texas Emergency Management website.
“Religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship,” were added to the list of “essential services” that include healthcare, law enforcement, energy wastewater and more.
You can see a full list on the Texas Emergency Management website.
7. Care packages to be given out for at-risk youth and families in Texas
Abbott announced the Comfort Food Care Package (CFCP) program Tuesday to provide meals for at-risk youth and families in communities across Texas.
“As part of the program, participating restaurants offer CFCPs for patrons to purchase on behalf of families and youth in need," the governor’s office announced. “Each care package contains enough food to feed a family of 5 to 6 and will be delivered to recipients’ homes. The program is a partnership between the Governor’s Public Safety Office, the Texas network of Family and Youth Success Programs (formerly called Services to At-Risk Youth), Favor Delivery, and the Texas Restaurant Association.”