On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued an order requiring citizens to remain at home unless engaged in particular work or activities permitted by the order. The order will go into effect as of Midnight tonight (March 24, 2020) and will continue until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 3rd. There is always the possibility, however, that the order could be extended.
All persons in Harris County (including those in cities, like Jersey Village) are legally obligated to follow the order.
What businesses are required to close due to the order?
- Fitness centers
- Swimming pools
- Other facilities that are used or intended to be used for any type of training, martial arts, sport or recreation
- Hair and nail salons
- Licensed massage businesses
- Tattoo parlors
- Concert halls,
- Live performance theaters
- Movie theaters
- Game rooms
- Bowling alleys
- Indoor and outdoor flea markets and swap meets
- Indoor malls
- Indoor shopping centers
- Bingo halls
What about restaurants?
The Harris County Judge’s March 19th order remains in effect, limiting restaurants to serving food and alcohol by take out, delivery or drive-through only.
Are parks required to close?
Parks and outdoor recreation areas are generally allowed to remain open, but playgrounds will close.
What are the permitted reasons to leave my home?
The order provides that individuals may leave their residence to perform the following “Essential Activities”:
- Activities or tasks essential to health and safety of yourself or members of your family or household members, including:
- Obtaining medical supplies or medication
- Visiting a healthcare professional
- Obtaining necessary supplies for yourself, family or household members, including:
- Pet Supplies
- Household consumer products
- Supplies needed to work from home
- Sanitation and safety supplies
- Supplies for essential operation of your home
- Engage in outdoor activity (individuals must remain six feet away from others while engaging in those activities). Examples cited in the order include:
- Perform work providing essential products and services at an “Essential Business” (more on that below)
- Care for family members or pets in another household
What are “Essential Businesses”?
Because of the detail involved, I am copying this text directly from the order. “Essential Businesses” include:
- Essential Critical Infrastructure: Work necessary to the operations and maintenance of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), provided that they carry out those services or that work in compliance with social distancing requirements of six feet to the extent possible. Essential Businesses providing essential infrastructure should implement screening precautions to protect employees and all activities shall be performed in compliance with social distancing guidelines.
- Essential Government Functions: All services provided by local governments and municipalities located in Harris County needed to ensure their continuing operation to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public, including law enforcement, jail operations and other services. Further, nothing in this Order shall prohibit any individual from performing “Essential Government Functions”. All Essential Government Functions shall be performed in compliance with social distancing requirements of six feet to the extent possible.
- Essential City of Houston Government Functions: All services provided by the City of Houston that the Mayor of the City of Houston determines to be essential Government Functions. Further, nothing in this Order shall prohibit any individual from performing “Essential Government Functions”. All Essential Government Functions shall be performed in compliance with social distancing requirements of six feet to the extent possible.
- Essential Healthcare Operations: Healthcare operations, including hospitals, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, other healthcare facilities, healthcare suppliers, mental health providers, substance abuse service providers, blood banks, medical research, laboratory services, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services. Home-based and residential-based care for seniors, adults, or children are also considered healthcare operations. Healthcare operations also include veterinary care and all health and welfare services provided to animals. This exemption shall be viewed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare.
- Essential Retail: 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. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home.
- Providers of Basic Necessities to Economically Disadvantaged Populations: Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals.
- Essential Services Necessary to Maintain Essential Operations of Residences or Other Essential Businesses: Trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal, mail and shipping services, building cleaning, maintenance and security, warehouse/distribution and fulfillment, storage for essential businesses, funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, yard and maintenance crews, housekeepers, janitorial staff, pool cleaners and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences and Essential Businesses. Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities. Businesses that supply other Essential Businesses with support or utilities needed to operate. Caregivers and helpers who provide services to seniors and disabled individuals.
- News Media: Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services.
- Childcare and Adult Care Services: Childcare and adult care facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in this Order to work as permitted.
- Infrastructure, Development, Operation and Construction: For example, public works construction, construction of housing or other types of construction including commercial, manufacturing, airport operations and aircraft manufacturing, maintenance or repair, water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil refining, roads and highways, public transportation, solid waste collection and removal, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services).
- Transportation: Businesses related to the operation, maintenance, construction, and manufacture of transportation services.For example, (a) vehicle manufacturers, automotive suppliers and parts departments, car dealerships, parts distributors, maintenance and repair facilities; (b) public transportation; (c) businesses supporting airport operations; (d)street and highway maintenance and construction; (e) gas stations and other fuel distribution businesses; (f) vehicles for hire, including public transportation services, Uber, Lyft, and taxicabs, that enable persons to travel to or from employers, service providers, or businesses exempted in this Order. People riding on public transit must comply with the six-foot social distancing requirements to the greatest extent feasible.
- Labor union functions: Critical labor union functions, including the maintenance of health and welfare funds and checking on the well-being and safety of members.
- NASA and Port of Houston: Activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Port of Houston.
- Airports and related operations: Airport and airline activities, operations, maintenance and repairs, and the hotels that serve these Essential Businesses.
- Professional services: Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, insurances services, and “real estate services” when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities or to further Essential Businesses, Essential Government functions, or Critical Infrastructure.
If my work does not fall under one of the above items, can I keep working?
Yes, but only from home. The order does allow you to leave your home to obtain supplies needed in order to work from home.
What if I have more questions about this order?
All questions should be directed to the Office of the Harris County Judge via e-mail at email@example.com.