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'Stay Home Work Safe order' goes into effect in Harris County, Houston

Grocery stores and restaurants will remain open (for takeout, delivery). Daycares that provide support for essential employees will also remain open.

HOUSTON — Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Tuesday new numbers in the Houston area show the community "must take further steps" to help prevent the spread of COVID-19/coronavirus.

She made the remarks while announcing what the county is calling a "Stay Home Work Safe" order for both the City of Houston and Harris County, including all other smaller cities within the county. The order is similar to what many other communities around the country are referring to as a "stay-at-home order" or a shelter-in-place.

"This means that all of us should stay home unless our jobs are essential for the health and safety of our community," said Hidalgo at Tuesday morning's press conference.

The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. March 24 (Tuesday night) and will stay in effect until at least April 3.

Those who do not comply with the order and attend large gatherings or parties, for instance, could face a fine and up to 180 days in jail, Hidalgo said.

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Judge Hidalgo said for those who must work, they should maintain six feet from each other. She also noted citizens can still handle the business they need to deal with, like caring for a pet or a family member in another household. Religious worship services can continue via online streaming and video conferencing.


Stores, daycares and parks will remain open

Essential businesses, like grocery stores, will remain open. And restaurants can continue to provide takeout and deliveries. Daycares that provide support for essential employees will remain open.

City and county parks will also remain open, although Hidalgo warned that people must keep their distance from each other. Park workout equipment and playgrounds should not be touched or used.

Credit: KHOU 11
Stay Home Work Safe order for Harris County and Houston

Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner made it clear they did not want to use the term "shelter-in-place" because those words, in Houston, are typically reserved for plant explosions, shootings or hurricanes.

Both the judge and the mayor said they will refer to the federal government's list of 16 critical sectors to determine what is "essential."

The 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

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Austin, Dallas, Galveston and San Antonio are among other Texas towns and cities also issuing similar orders.

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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