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What is an essential employee or business? 'Stay Home Work Safe' order issued for Houston

Houston and Harris County's stay-at-home order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. March 24 and will last until at least April 3.

HOUSTON — Harris County and Houston's "Stay Home Work Safe" order is similar to what many other communities are referring to as a "stay-at-home order" or a shelter-in-place.

But Houston is not shutting down.

The order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. March 24 and will stay in effect until at least April 3, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Tuesday.

RELATED: 'Stay home, Work safe order' goes into effect in Harris County, Houston

RELATED: What is allowed under Houston's 'Stay Home, Work Safe' order?

Hidalgo said only "essential businesses" should remain operating. She said the county and city will refer to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency's list of "16 sectors deemed critical" to determine what is essential.

Hidalgo also noted that grocery stores, restaurants (for take out, delivery and drive-thru) will remain open along with daycares that support essential employees.

The 16 sectors deemed 'critical' by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency:

"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."

Here are those 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

Here are some of the essential businesses that remain open under this order: 

  • Grocery Stores. Food manufacturers. Hospitals and medical facilities. Police. Fire. EMS. Internet Service Providers. Power plants or any facility that deals with electricity, oil or natural gas. 
  • Transportation businesses including the Port of Houston, freight rail, postal workers, aviation, mass transit, truckers, Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing companies. 
  • Water and wastewater systems remain operational. Critical manufacturing including those now producing masks or hand sanitizer. 
  • Banking remains essential and operational as do defense industries, auto repair shops, funeral homes and hardware and supply stores. 
  • Housing construction and road work can continue as well along with trash pickup. 
  • Homeless shelters and social service remain open too. 

Places of worship, however, are not considered essential and must close and only provide online services.

Leaders stress that even those reporting to work must "work safe". That means social distancing, six feet apart from each other and absolutely no group gatherings.

If you have a question or concern about this order, you can email county officials at stayathome@cjo.hctx.net

Grocery stores will remain open

Essential businesses, like grocery stores and gas stations, will remain open.

Judge Hidalgo made it clear Monday that she did not want to use the term "shelter-in-place" because that, in Houston, is typically reserved for plant explosions or hurricanes.

Restaurants will remain open for takeout, delivery and drive through. 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.

Stay 6 feet apart

Hidalgo says for those who must work, they should maintain six feet from each other. People can still handle the business they need to deal with, like caring for a pet or a family member in another household.

Those who violate the order and gather in groups could face a fine or up to 180 days in jail.

RELATED: Coronavirus updates: view live blog here

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.

Get complete coverage of the coronavirus by texting 'FACTS' to 713-526-1111.