coronavirus update

Harris County announces no shelter-in-place, but COVID-19 testing ramps up

Harris County announces no shelter-in-place, but testing ramps up

Coronavirus testing COVID-19 testing lab doctor test
Harris County residents (and neighboring areas) now have a better methodology for testing.  Photo by Getty Images

Reacting to the growing threat of coronavirus/COVID-19 cases in Houston and surrounding areas, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced a major step in testing Monday, March 23 at a press conference.

Hidalgo first addressed questions of a mandatory shelter-in-place for Harris County, as Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins executed an order requiring all individuals who live within Dallas County to shelter at their place of residence on Sunday, March 22.
Shelter-in-place is “not the right term for our region,” said Hidalgo. She said her team is working to determine “what is essential and not essential” and that  “it may be” that a shelter-at-home decision is made, perhaps within 24 hours. “I know all of this sounds very scary,” but “we will get through this together,” she noted, adding that planning is “data-driven.”

Regarding testing, Hidalgo announced that Harris County has finally received supplies from the federal government to scale-up local testing sites. “We are open for business,” she said. (Houston already has testing sites in place.)

That means:

  • Harris County and surrounding-area residents now have an online tool.
  • Test sites will be open to the general public (locations available at

Online participants will be given instructions on how to better understand their symptoms and then proceed with testing. “We want folks who are tested who have symptoms,” she added. Capacity currently runs to 250 tests per day, per site, at two county sites. The federal government will restock the sites.

The testing is open to all regions, including neighboring counties. Hidalgo adds that she expects waiting lists and that there is a “triage process going on.” Results will take two to four days.

For those without a computer, a phone bank is ready at 832-927-7575, available 24 hours a day. 

“Testing is not treatment, if you are sick, you should not be out and about,” Hidalgo warned. “Our biggest help is staying home, social distancing,” and the testing.

“We’re not exaggerating when we say staying at home and social distancing is a matter of life and death,” she added. She warned against crowd gathering and close-contact with others.

CultureMap will update this story.