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Can I do that now? Answering your stay-in-place order questions

HOUSTON – Almost every part of the greater Houston area is under orders to stay in place. Local leaders told us we should only leave home for essential business, and only companies deemed essential can remain open. We know you have a lot of questions about what you can and cannot do during this time. Here are answers to some of them:

Q: I’m divorced with court-ordered child schedules. Are we still able to drive to each other’s homes to exchange the children as ordered by our divorce decree?

Answer: The Texas Supreme Court says “yes” in this emergency order passed Tuesday. It reads “the existing trial court order shall control in all instances. Possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order.”

The order is effective March 24 through May 8. It wouldn’t hurt to carry a copy of the order and your visitation schedule court documents in case you get stopped.

Q: I have Yorkies and Mini Shihtzu and need regular grooming for health and sanitary (sic). Is it safe to have my pet groomed by a mobile groomer?

Answer: You can bathe your pets just as you wash your own hands, but under the stay-in-place order, pet grooming is not deemed essential.

Q: My husband and I are in our 80s. We are not physically able to take care of our yard. Can our lawncare workers still come to do that work during this time?

Answer: Under the order, yard and maintenance crews, housekeepers and janitorial staff are included in a long list of “essential services necessary to maintain essential operations of residences or other essential businesses.” See the 17th paragraph from the bottom of the order here.

Q: What about all of the businesses still open that are not essential? Where can we report those?

Answer: If it’s a bar, nightclub or restaurant violating the order, you can call the Harris County Stay Home, Work Safe hotline at 832-839-6941.

To report any other type of non-essential business still operating, go to ReadyHarris.org. On the left-hand side of the screen, click on “Report a Violation.

There, you will also find a list of businesses that must be closed through April 3.

We asked Harris County Judge Lina Hildalgo’s office what happens to the violation reports. A spokesperson told us the fire marshal’s office investigates the complaints about bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. They send the other complaints to the appropriate agencies like the county attorney or the sheriff’s department to investigate.