Hidalgo amends Harris Co. Stay Home, Work Safe order as county death toll reaches double digits

By R. Hans Miller | Times Senior Reporter
Posted 4/4/20

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has amended the county’s Stay Home, Work Safe order which was originally issued March 24 to clarify items related to religious services, essential workers and …

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Hidalgo amends Harris Co. Stay Home, Work Safe order as county death toll reaches double digits

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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has amended the county’s Stay Home, Work Safe order which was originally issued March 24 to clarify items related to religious services, essential workers and the transportation industry Saturday morning. The order is currently set to expire at the end of the day April 30.

“Harris County reached a grim milestone yesterday. Deaths have entered double-digits - 13 people have had their lives stolen by #COVID19. Stay informed and take action,” Hidalgo said in a Facebook post.

Harris County now has a total of 930 confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus – also referred to as COVID-19 – and 163 people have recovered according to the Harris County Public Health website. Of those cases, 45% of patients are male, 53% are female and the gender of the patient is unknown in 2% of cases. Most cases are in those between the ages of 30 and 59. Those aged 20-24 account for 24 cases countywide. These numbers include the entire county, which includes the city of Houston.

The amended order clarifies and makes changes to requirements for religious services. Churches of all faiths may hold services in-person if digital opportunities are unavailable, but virtual services remain encouraged and social distancing requirements remain in effect.  

“Per the Texas Attorney General's guidance on this topic, if religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, then religious services may be conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship,” the order reads.

Essential critical infrastructure and retail are determined by guidelines set forth by the Department4 of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, commonly referred to as CISA.

To clarify what qualifies as “essential critical infrastructure” the order now refers to bot the federal guidelines put out by CISA and the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s online list of additional essential services. The TDEM guidelines specifically add religious services and excludes cosmetology salons, gyms, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios as well as eating and drinking inside bars, restaurants and food courts.

Service from restaurants is still allowed via drive thru, curbside and delivery, per TDEM guidelines.

See this story’s cover graphic and this link for the extended CISA guidelines. Generally, health care, transportation, IT, water infrastructure, energy, food and agriculture, government facilities, financial institutions, emergency services, defense workers, certain manufacturing, chemical facilities and communications companies may remain in operation, though the order does encourage working from home via telecommute whenever possible.

Essential retailers now include the following:

“Food producers and service providers, including grocery stores, warehouse stores, furniture suppliers, big box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, farmers' markets that sell food products and household staples. Food cultivation, including farming, ranching, fishing, and livestock. Food production, including the production of canned goods, bottled beverages and other grocery items. Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery, drive-thru or carry-out. Schools and other entities that typically provide free services to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only. The restriction of delivery or carry-out does not apply to cafes and restaurants located within hospital and medical facilities. Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers. Gas stations, auto supply, auto and bicycle repair, hardware stores, and related facilities.”

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