The City of Humble has closed all facilities until further notice, City Manager Jason Stuebe said March 20. “In an effort to be proactive in combating the prevalence and spread of COVID-19, effective Monday, March 23, the City of Humble facilities will be closed to the public until further notice. “The city itself will still be open for business and we will continue to provide services and assistance to residents,” he said.
Earlier, on March 17, Stuebe released the following: “In accordance with the order issued by the office of the governor suspending portions of the Open Meetings Act, city council meetings will be conducted with limited public access. Members of the public wishing to listen and participate in the meeting will be provided with a call-in number. This will be published with meeting notices.
“Any public or private events at city facilities with an attendance of 10 or more are cancelled through April 5; the city is practicing ‘polite’ enforcement of the county judge’s order closing bars, clubs, arcades and restricting restaurants to take-out/drive-thru service only; the city is waiving tent permits for food establishments only; we have placed travel restrictions for all business-related travel and training through May 3 (employees only); personal travel out of the area through May 3 must be reported and approved; some restrictions for out-of-state travel apply (employees only); city employee picnic has been canceled; municipal court has cleared its docket through April 24; employees are asked to practice social distancing guidelines; all non-public, safety-related capital purchases or projects not currently underway are suspended until further notice or unless authorized by the city manager; all non-public safety open positions are frozen until further notice or unless authorized by the city manager.
“Also, in compliance with the county-wide precautions, the Humble Civic Center published an announcement that read, ‘In the interest of public health, the City of Humble has decided to cancel the Good Oil Days Festival 2020 and all other large events through April 4.’”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner joined Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and local health officials Monday, March 16, to announce the new measures being taken across the county to prevent spreading coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Turner and Hidalgo ordered bars and nightclubs to close and food-service establishments to stop in-service dining for 15 days, effective at 8 a.m. March 17.
“This is not a lockdown,” Turner said. “Our goal is to flatten the curve and slow the progression of COVID-19 so that it does not overwhelm our health-care system.”
A special meeting was held Tuesday where Turner and Houston City Council members voted to indefinitely extend the proclamation of a local state of disaster due to a public health disaster for the City of Houston. Turner had previously signed a bill that declared the emergency for seven days.
The order allows Turner to make decisions to work with the county, state and federal officials to contain and mitigate COVID-19 spread and protect members of the public.
According to the press release from Turner’s office, Turner said, “As a city, we must work together. This is a crisis that is going to be with us for several weeks, if not several months. It is gravely important for us to take definitive steps to slow the COVID-19 spread. The measures we have put in place will help save lives.”
Humble ISD and Huffman ISD announced that campuses will be closed through April 10 as a precautionary measure to prevent spreading COVID-19. In addition to schools, other public buildings, programs and organizations have shut their doors for a period of time. On Tuesday, officials with the City of Houston released that “All Houston Public Library locations will be closed through the end of the month in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The closures come in response to directives from Mayor Sylvester Turner as well as Harris County and federal guidelines.”
Though patrons will not be able to physically check out a book at the public library, the online digital services will still be available.
The statement also announced that due dates will be extended, library cards will automatically be renewed, and there will be no new late fees during this time period. For more details, visit houstonlibrary.org.
Courts within the City of Houston will be closed due to precautions for COVID-19 as well. According to a statement released by Jose E. Soto, assistant public information officer, “The City of Houston Municipal Courts Department has suspended all jury trials and jury duty during the period of Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31.”
The statement warns, “If anyone has recently traveled internationally, has come into contact with someone who has traveled internationally, or if you are, or think you are, experiencing symptoms similar to COVID-19, please DO NOT COME TO COURT. You are urged to contact your health-care provider. Once you have been cleared by a physician, you can come into any of our City of Houston court locations to speak with an annex judge to reset your case. Please visit the municipal courts’ website at houstontx.gov/courts for continued updates on all court locations and hours of operation.”
The cancelation only covers trial by jury court dates. “Arraignments, trials by judge, parking adjudication hearings and all other proceedings” are still scheduled according to the statement. “Individuals who are scheduled for any other court settings are expected to appear in court for their scheduled setting,” the statement said.
The Houston Health Department will close its Bureau of Vital Statistics (birth and death records) Office to the public until further notice.
Places of worship have also followed suit in canceling services. Father T.J. of St. Martha Catholic Church of Kingwood announced that he would like to livestream masses via YouTube, requesting that supporters subscribe to his channel. First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood announced a suspension of local worship services for the duration of March, and instead opting to provide online worship services for the congregation. Some churches, such as The Luke Church and Grace Church of Humble, held live services last weekend, but have since canceled their midweek and future services to align with the recommendation from officials of reducing exposure by not having gatherings. Second Baptist Church-North had “Worship online at Second.org” on their large digital screen facing Hwy. 59.
In the release from Turner’s office, he announced, “All city-produced, sponsored and permitted events are canceled through the end of April. Starting Tuesday, March 24, no proclamation presentations will be made during the city council public session. The City of Houston remains open for business. However, employees are encouraged to limit exposure to members of the public and handle business online, if possible. City of Houston department directors have the discretion to allow employees to work from home/telecommute.”
Hidalgo shared a video on social media Tuesday evening soliciting the help of Harris County residents in the efforts to limit the spreading of COVID-19. Hidalgo said, “We need your help. There are three steps we need you to take.” Hidalgo requested that residents help by complying with the orders she issued for precautionary measures.
“First,” Hidalgo continued, “Yesterday I ordered all bars and clubs closed in Harris County and any city in an unincorporated area within the county. So, help us comply with that. I also ordered all restaurants closed unless they are engaging in take-out, delivery, or drive-through, and we need to support our restaurants. Order from the restaurants, just don’t dine in.
“More broadly, and the third point is we should not be going out, certainly should not be congregating in groups. This is not the time to be at a party, to be at the gym, to be at the theater. We need to make sure that we are staying away from crowds. We’re counting on you. We can get through this together, but we need everybody to help us in taking these three steps.”