FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas — County Judge KP George has issued a stay-at-home order, asking that everyone stay home and only essential businesses remain open as the county hopes to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

George signed a "Stay Home to Save Lives" order this afternoon that takes effect at midnight and lasts through 11:59 p.m. on April 3.

The order doesn't apply to people needing to go to a grocery store or pharmacy, seeing their doctors, caring for a family member or pet at another household, or going outdoors -- though George said playgrounds are closed and people must continue to distance themselves at least six feet from others.

"When faced with an unprecedented pandemic, Fort Bend County has chosen to prioritize the lives of its residents," George wrote on his Facebook page this afternoon. "Our first responders, hospital systems and frontline #COVID19 staff had made it clear that they need swift and bold action to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"We must listen to the science, data, and medical experts to make sure our most vulnerable residents are protected, and we avoid the situations now unfolding in places like Italy or Spain.

"This situation requires all of us, including the young and healthy, to stay home and make sacrifices if our whole community is to remain healthy and intact."

To date, Fort Bend County has had 46 positive cases of COVID-19. Given the current spread of the virus, George said the county doesn't have enough ICU beds "to allow daily life to continue the way it's been."

County health officials urged residents to stay home.

"No school, no play dates. Only go out for meds, food and essential items," said Dr. Sapna Singh with the Fort Bend medical society. "Our resources are at risk for being overwhelmed. Before we reach that point where we flood the (emergency rooms), this is an opportunity where we get to slow things down."

The Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office asked that people don't call the dispatch center for questions about the order. Instead, residents can call 281-633-7795.

Earlier Tuesday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a “Stay at Home, Work Safe” order for all of Harris County. Austin, Dallas, Galveston and San Antonio are among the other cities in Texas that have issued similar orders.

"We cannot do it alone, and we need your help," George said.

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What are essential businesses? 

There are 16 sectors deemed critical by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. From the federal government: "There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof. Presidential Policy Directive 21 (PPD-21): PPD-21 identifies 16 critical infrastructure sectors."

Chemical Sector

Commercial Facilities Sector

Communications Sector

Critical Manufacturing Sector

Dams Sector

Defense Industrial Base Sector

Emergency Services Sector

Energy Sector

Financial Services Sector

Food and Agriculture Sector

Government Facilities Sector

Healthcare and Public Health Sector

Information Technology Sector

Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector

Transportation Systems Sector

Water and Wastewater Systems Sector

Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Eat and sleep separately from your family members
  • Use different utensils and dishes
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

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