Harris County officials order all bars, clubs to close, restaurants to suspend dining in; Fort Bend County issues recommendations

HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner ordered all bars and clubs to close for the next 15 days at least, starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. All restaurants are asked to suspend dine-in and only provide take-out, delivery or drive-thru options for diners.

Houston is the fourth big city to take these steps and Hidalgo, along with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner agreed that these steps were necessary to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the area.

“None of these decisions that we are having to make are easy decisions,” Turner said in the Monday press conference. “They’re simply not easy. Especially, we recognize that when you’re making a decision, you’re impacting people’s livelihood and possibly people could be laid off or lose their jobs as a result of the decisions made.”

Turner urged other local officials in surrounding counties to follow suit as he said “our boundaries are very porous,” and people travel from one place to another.

“Even if you are healthy, you are young, you can still pass (COVID-19) on to somebody who may die from it,” Hidalgo said in an interview with KPRC 2. “All the spiking cases could overwhelm our health care system.”

The Houston Health Department also broadened its social distancing guidelines Monday. The department now recommends all Houstonians stay away from groups of 10 or more people where there will be close contact with others.

“While most healthy people will recover from COVID-19, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk of serious health consequences,” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “If everyone avoids large gatherings, we will reduce the likelihood of young, healthy people giving their grandparents or immune-compromised friends a virus from which they may not recover.”

Watch the full press conference by local health officials below:

Fort Bend County

Late Monday night, Fort Bend County announced new community guidelines for residents.

“We are strongly recommending the suspension of service at bars and clubs,” wrote Fort Bend County spokesperson Taral Patel in an email to KPRC 2. “However, if the recommendation to suspend is not followed, we are encouraging the reduction of hours and increasing amount of time to clean/disinfect/etc to mitigate the situation.”

Patel further said the county is “strongly recommending the suspension of sit-down restaurant services. However, if the recommendation to suspend those services are not followed, we are encouraging reducing of seating capacity, smaller groups, increased sanitary practices, etc to mitigate the situation.”

See the full list of revised guidelines from Fort Bend County here.

Montgomery County

Judge Mark Keough signed an order Tuesday affecting food and drink establishments and movie theaters in Montgomery County in response to the growing number of COVID-19 crisis.

The order includes the following:

  • All restaurants shall reduce the occupancy of the entire premise to 50 people or less at any one time in total. Tables shall be spaced a minimum of 10 feet apart.
  • All restaurants may continue to-go, takeout, delivery, and catering operations.
  • Restaurants shall not allow any employee to report to work who is sick. Strict handwashing and sanitizing operations must be deployed.
  • Any bar or club shall limit occupancy to 50 persons or less at any one time in total.
  • Movie theaters shall limit occupancy to 25 persons or less per screen at any one time.

Other precautions you should take

While COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus, daily precautions recommended to prevent respiratory illnesses are the same:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve. Don’t use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick and keep children home when they are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Get a flu shot. (Although the flu shot does not protect against COVID-19, it is flu season.)