With the Friday, April 3 deadline of Houston and Harris County’s stay-at-home/work safe order looming, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo will announce an extension to the directive to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Harris County and Houston residents will be under an extended stay-at-home order that runs through 11:59 pm April 30. “It's a necessary burden, and we're doing it for the sake of our health,” said Hidalgo. The directive was announced at a joint press conference with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Hidalgo explained that Houston Medical Center CEOs collectively advised that an extension is necessary. "We want this to end sooner," she said.
"Overall, our county has come together by staying apart," noted Hidalgo, who added that the directive to needs "buy-in from everybody at home" to be effective.
Meanwhile, Turner noted the peak of COVID-19 is expected to hit around May 2, based on information from medical leaders. He added that he hopes to raise the number of daily COVID-19 tests from the current number of 250 in Houston.
This comes after Texas Governor Greg Abbott also ordered social distancing activities to be extended through the end of April. Abbott made the announcement as the state confirmed at least 3,266 COVID-19 cases, including at least 41 deaths.
The rule applies to the city of Houston as well as the 2 million residents who live in the unincorporated parts of Harris County.
Hidalgo also said Harris County is giving a three-month extension to all delinquent property taxes. Taxes won't be due until June, which is also when the penalty and interest will be due, according to CultureMap media partner, ABC13.
The judge also announced a new online dashboard for residents to use to navigate COVID-19 information at ReadyHarris.org.
The extension means current enforcements will stay in place: All public and private gatherings will be prohibited. Parks will stay open. Exceptions include going outside to walk, bike, or exercise — as long as each individual is practicing social distancing of at least 6 feet or more away from the next person. Basketball courts and playground equipment should be avoided.
All non-essential businesses will be ordered to cease activity. Restaurants will remain open for drive-thru, delivery, and takeout. Religious gatherings will be online-only; faith leaders will be allowed to conduct one-on-one meetings.
As ABC13 reports, on March 31, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said there are plans to also start a mobile testing facility to help seniors who are unable to leave their homes.
Jackson Lee noted that there were about 138 confirmed cases of coronavirus, nine people recovered, and two deaths in Fort Bend County. She also added that the recent number of deaths due to coronavirus could surpass the number of deaths during the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
“This invisible disease, this powerful disease called the coronavirus that now has taken 3,000 American lives,” Lee said. “I believe in the last reports that it will certainly surge past 9/11. It will be more than 9/11.”
Meanwhile, the head of Houston's Medical Center voiced his support of the extension. “By making the decision to extend the ‘Stay Home, Work Safe’ order through April 30, local government officials are taking the necessary steps to save lives and protect our patients, families and the region,” said William F. McKeon, president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center, in a statement.
This is a breaking news story; CultureMap will update as news develops.