HOUSTON – Houston, Harris County and Fort Bend County officials are working together to try and contain and mitigate coronavirus spread in the greater Houston area. On Thursday, the officials held a joint news conference new health guidelines after evidence shows there is community spread of the virus that is not linked to international travel.
Houston and Harris County declared health emergencies Wednesday and Montgomery County followed suit on Thursday. The Montgomery County order will last at least 30 days starting Friday.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he recognized that there will be more cases and said he was concerned that the rapid increase of coronavirus patients and the potential to overwhelm the local healthcare system.
“Where things are right now, they can handle the capacity, but it is important we get out and instill recommendations that are reasonable for us to contain and mitigate,” he said.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the plan is to get ahead of the curve and protect the community before it spikes.
Here are the top recommendations and updates from the press conference:
1. The city of Houston will not turn off home, business water until April
Turner said he needs residents to wash their hands.
He said the city of Houston will not disconnect water for any individual or business through the end of April. While the city is not forgiving payments, they will ensure your water is not disconnected.
“You will still owe, we just won’t disconnect it,” Turner said.
2. Reconsider gathering or events with more than 250 people
Hidalgo suggested people cancel or postpone gathering and events of over 250 people. That would impact weddings, parties, conferences and more.
“Folks use your best judgment,” she said.
3. Seniors should be aware of large gatherings
Seniors and senior centers are advised not to participate in gatherings. Senior centers should also consider limited visitations and other health precautions.
Other high-risk health people are also asked to avoid large gatherings.
“So, we don’t end up (like) what happened in Seattle with 19 deaths,” Hidalgo said.
4. If you are sick, don’t go out in public
Officials reminded people to not go to work or in public spaces if you are sick.
5. Employers should maximize telecommunication
Hidalgo requested employers maximize telecommunication and limit close contact with each other.
6. No recommendation to close schools
Hidalgo asked school districts to remain open. She suggested that districts consider staggering classes and taking special health precautions.
“We are not recommending that schools close,” Hidalgo said. “We know children are a cause for concern, they are carriers, but if schools close, there were wouldn’t be much of a difference, (H1N1 reference) healthcare workers and call takers couldn’t work. We are sending guidance to school to stagger classes, take special measures that we will be convening all school districts tomorrow to coordinate.”
You can see all the Houston area school districts who are canceling classes or extending spring break here.