Nearby Cities and Counties Follow Houston and Harris County's Lead — to an Extent [UPDATED]

Galveston and its beaches .
Galveston and its beaches . Photo by Roy Luck/flickr

Update 1 p.m. Harris County Public Health reports two new cases of COVID-19  which brings the total to 13 positive cases. These new cases do not include those within the City of Houston.

HCPH’s two new cases, which appear to be community spread:

A 60-70 year-old man, who lives in the Northeast quadrant of Harris County.
A 30-40 year-old man, who lives in the Southwest quadrant of Harris County.

Update 4:30 p.m. The City of Houston Health Department announced five new positive coronavirus cases bringing the city's total to 10. Two of the cases did not involve any known travel.

Update 2:15 p.m. Macy's has announced it is closing its stores nationwide through the end of March. Stages Stores just announced reduced store hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Wednesday morning and the list of coronavirus-inspired changes continues. Officials confirmed Tuesday that a 77-year old man living in an Arlington, Texas retirement center has died.

Gov. Abbott has temporarily waived expiration dates for driver's licenses and other identification forms. The suspension will be in effect until 60 days after notice that the driver's license operations have resumed.

“Texas is at a pivotal moment in the response to COVID-19, and by temporarily delaying Driver License renewals we will help limit non-essential trips into public settings and slow the spread of this virus,”
Abbott said in a press release.

11:08 a.m. Abbott issued a proclamation allowing for the postponement of local elections scheduled for May 2. It is up to the local jurisdiction. In Houston, this means means the runoff election for City Council District B between Cynthia Bailey and Tarsha Jackson, already delayed by a lawsuit, could be further delayed.

MATCH, the Midtown arts center that houses a variety of productions, has announced it is closing until further notice. In its announcement it cited the Harris County and City of Houston latest guidelines asking everyone to avoid groups of ten or more people.

To date there have been five positive COVID-19 cases identified in Houston, all involved people to had been traveling. Four are home recovering and one remains hospitalized.

Nearby cities and counties are employing some of the same tactics as Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Lina Hidalgo have taken, Fort Bend County Judge KP George has ordered all bars and clubs closed and no sit-down service in the county's restaurants through March 31.

The city of Galveston is closing its bars and amusement venues  and limiting its restaurants to pickup, delivery and takeout. However Galveston County is not undertaking the same measures. Galveston County Judge Mark Henry has said he considers Harris County order closing restaurants and bars illegal.  Galveston County has had two presumptive positive cases of coronavirus. According to county officials the second case involves a man who has not recently traveled anywhere which suggests community spread.

And although South Padre Island officials this week canceled all events during Spring Break, Galveston is said to be attracting a large number of Spring Breakers

Montgomery County has limited the number of people who may be in a restaurant at one time to 50 or less and decreed that movie theaters should have no more than 25 people per screen at any time.

Update 4:20 p.m. Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough has issued a new order that begins on Thursday at 8 a.m. and continues until April 2, closing all onsite dining operations in restaurants, but allowing takeout, delivery and pickup. All bars and clubs will close. Gyms, movie theaters and amusement type businesses will close. Any event larger than ten people at publicly held facilities will cease. All retail stores, private businesses, clubs or civic organizations are urged to comply with CDC guidelines related to ten persons gathering in any one place at any one time.

The 53rd annual WorldFest Houston, scheduled for April 17-26 has been postponed to an undetermined time this summer.

As of today, Buffalo Bayou Partnership is closing both visitor canters at Lost Lake and The Water Works, its restrooms (update 2:53 p.m.: restrooms are now open again), the Barbara Fish Daniel Nature Play Area and the Johnny Steele Dog Park. All events and tours scheduled through May 1 are now suspended or canceled.
click to enlarge Meanwhile in Houston, supervised lines continue at grocery stores. Here, at H-E-B Gulfgate - PHOTO BY DOOGIE ROUX
Meanwhile in Houston, supervised lines continue at grocery stores. Here, at H-E-B Gulfgate
Photo by Doogie Roux
Stages theater is halting all performances at The Gordy through May 17 in response to the virus. Some productions are being rescheduled, others cancelled. Performances of Honky Tonk Laundry have stopped and will resume May 20 and run through July 26. Sensitive Guys has been rescheduled to June 10-21. Hook's Tale has been rescheduled to July 10-August 2. MacGyver The Musical has been rescheduled to August 7-September 20. Productions of Circle Mirror Transformation, Airness and Pieces of the Moon have been cancelled.

In a telling comment in its press release announcing the changes, Stages said:

These schedule changes represent 151 canceled performances across two seasons and 102 artist contracts that have been canceled or postponed. At this time Stages projects the immediate ticket-related revenue losses to be in excess of $643,000. 
Stages will be contacting ticket holders about rescheduling. As other theaters are doing, Stages is asking ticket holders with cancelled tickets to consider donating the value of the ticket to the theater, rather than asking for a refund.

Catholic Charities is continuing to serve people in need, it announced, but for now through phone and email interaction rather than face-to-face meetings. Call 713-526-4611 for help. 
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
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