Fort Bend joins Harris County with stay at home order

By R. HANS MILLER | TIMES SENIOR REPORTER
Posted 3/24/20

Fort Bend County Judge KP George announced during a 4:30 p.m. press conference today that he has issued a “stay home to save lives” order which will go into effect at midnight tonight in …

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Fort Bend joins Harris County with stay at home order

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Fort Bend County Judge KP George announced during a 4:30 p.m. press conference today that he has issued a “stay home to save lives” order which will go into effect at midnight tonight in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the county. The order allows essential travel such as getting groceries or medicine, working in essential industries and closes businesses which are not essential.

“This is the only way we can flatten the curve and give our health care system the necessary resources they need to save our vulnerable [residents],” George said.

George was joined during the conference by FBC Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Flathouse, Fort Bend County Health Authority Dr. Jacqueline Minter, Fort Bend Medical Society President Dr. Sapna Singh, Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Chief of Staff Dr. Zachary Mucher and FBC District Attorney Brian Middleton.

The order allows Fort Bend County residents to make essential trips to obtain medicine, food and medical care as well as working in essential businesses such as grocery stores, medical facilities, fuel stations and other things necessary for health and safety. George said the order does not prevent county residents from caring for a family member or pet in another household.

“This order allows for essential businesses to continue to operate as long as they comply with necessary precautions,” George said.

Those precautions include following the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing, George said. Nonessential businesses are required to close or institute work from home options, George said.

The order presents the following overall restrictions:

  • All individuals currently living within Fort Bend County to remain at their place of residence unless engaging in essential business.
  • All businesses, except essential businesses should cease all activities at facilities located within Fort Bend County.
  • All public or private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single house or living unit are prohibited.
  • Restaurants may only provide take-out, delivery, or drive-through services as allowed by law.
  • Religious and worship services may only be provided by video and teleconferencing while limiting in-person staff to ten people or less.
  • All elective medical, surgical, and dental procedures are prohibited anywhere in Fort Bend County.

Residents with questions regarding specific restrictions in the order may call 281-633-7795, George said. The order will also be posted on the county’s Office of Emergency Management website.

George said the decision to issue the order was made after discussing the situation with governmental, faith and medical leaders in the region and was based on science and observation of other communities around the globe that have faced COVID-19. The order is effective from midnight tonight until 11:59 p.m. April 3. The order complies with an order issued March 19 by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and places restrictions on private individuals and businesses, George said. Another factor in the decision was a lack of essential medical supplies like personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses as well as ventilators which are necessary to treat COVID-19.

“I did not make this decision lightly, but neither did I hesitate,” George said. “This issue of [the] order is going to save lives. I had no choice but to move ahead and do this.”

George said the number of cases in the county – currently 46 which is up from 29 on March 21 – is increasing exponentially, George said. Evidence shows that health resources in the county would be overwhelmed if the county does not take measures such as the order to slow the rapid spread of the virus which causes COVID-19.

“There is no indication that this exponential trend will not continue,” Minter said. “It is clear from experiences around the world and in our own country that we have to be consistently vigilant and flexible in our response to COVID-19 in order to protect our most vulnerable residents and our health care system.”

Minter added that the county has been using models to project increases in the spread of the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19. County officials have also examined the precautions taken by other communities across the nation and the globe and looked at which methods were most effective in mitigating the health and safety impacts in those communities before deciding to issue the order, she said.

Middleton encouraged Fort Bend residents to remain calm and work to ensure that they keep their tempers under control while in isolation at home.

Law enforcement officials throughout Greater Houston as well as mental health professionals have expressed concern about rises in domestic violence that can occur when people are unable to leave the home during stressful times.

Middleton also asked that residents comply with the order which can be enforced by law enforcement officers in the county.

Mucher and Singh expressed their respective agencies’ support of the order and said that it was vital to the maintenance of the county’s health care infrastructure.

George said he knows the order is going to place Fort Bend County residents in financial stress, but he will continue to press state and federal officials to provide relief for that issue.

“While short term economic impact is difficult, based on the global experience [with the] coronavirus, it is the only way that we can be able to preserve the local optimum economic and social fabric of our community,” George said.

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