Residents of 3rd largest county in U.S. ordered to stay home

Houston, Texas, and surrounding Harris County, have issued a stay at home order that goes into effect Wednesday. The order will stay in effect until at least April 3, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said at a press conference Tuesday.

“This means that all of us should stay home unless our jobs are essential for the health and safety of our community,” Hidalgo said, CBS News affiliate KHOU reports.

With a population over 4 million, Harris is the most populated county in Texas, and the third largest county in the United States.

“We are making decisions on the best information we have,” Hidalgo said. “The recommendation so far is not that we have to shut down the county, it is that we have to stay home and allow essential businesses to continue.”

“We are where where we are based on the information and data, that is the only way to do it,” she said.

Similar stay at home orders have been enforced in California, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Massachusetts.

Workers at essential businesses — like health care facilities, grocery stores, food delivery, pharmacies, and hardware stores — are still being advised to maintain six feet of distance from other people.

County officials said public parks will remain open, but urged people not to congregate outside.

Like stay at home orders in other major metropolitan areas, the county’s restaurants will remain open for takeout, delivery and drive through. KHOU reports that daycares that provide support for essential employees will also remain open.

Hidalgo said that the order is being issued in an effort to “stay ahead” of the virus’ spread.

“We can’t hermetically seal Harris County,” she said, noting that 20% of Harris County is uninsured, and that the county has fewer hospital beds per capita than Italy, where the health care system has been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

“We are not a police state, we are relying on people to do their part,” Hidalgo said.

“This is about the health of all of us — everybody’s health is in each other’s hands.”

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