WHEREAS, on March 12, 2020, a Declaration of Local Disaster for Public Health Emergency was issued to allow Fort Bend County to take measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to COVID-19 and promote the health and safety of Fort Bend County residents; and
Whereas, on March 13, 2020, a Declaration of State of Disaster was issued by Governor Abbott to take additional steps to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to protect the health and welfare of Texans; and
Whereas, on March 16, 2020, President Donald Trump acknowledged the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, releasing strict new guidelines to limit people’s interactions, including that Americans should avoid groups of more than 10 people; and
Whereas, on March 17, 2020, the Fort Bend County Commissioners at a Special Meeting of Commissioners Court approved an extension of the Declaration of Local Disaster for Public Health Emergency to March 24, 2020, and such was further extended by Order of Commissioners Court on March 24, 2020, and March 31, 2020; and
Whereas, due to the substantial risks to the public, certain establishments were ordered closed to implement the “All of Community” approach, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), focused on slowing the transmission of COVID-19 through social distancing to reduce illness and death, while minimizing social and economic impacts by Order of the County Judge of Fort Bend County, on March 17, 2020, and further amended on March 20, 2020; and
Whereas, due to the continued rapid spread of COVID-19, additional measures are necessary to protect the ability of the public and private health care providers to handle the influx of new patients, and safeguard public health and safety through the use of mandates to remain at home, except for certain essential activities and work to provide essential business and government services or perform essential business and public infrastructure.
NOW THEREFORE, I, COUNTY JUDGE OF FORT BEND COUNTY, TEXAS, PURSUANT TO THE AUTHORITY VESTED BY TEXAS GOVERNMENT CODE CHAPTER 418, HEREBY FIND AND ORDER:
SECTION 1. That the findings and recitations set out in the preamble to this Order are found to be true and correct and they are hereby adopted by the County Judge and made a part hereof for all purposes.
SECTION 2. That this Order shall be read to comply with Executive Order No. GA-14 signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on March 31, 2020 relating to statewide continuity of essential services and activities during the COVID-19 disaster, which supersedes any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster, but only to the extent such local order restricts Essential Services allowed by Executive Order No. GA-14 or allows gatherings prohibited by such.
SECTION 3. To minimize social gatherings and to minimize social in-person contact with people who are not in the same household to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, effective as of 12:01 a.m., April 2, 2020, and continuing through 11:59 p.m. on April 30, 2020, unless a declaration of the local disaster for public health emergency is no longer in effect, and subject to the limited exceptions and under the terms and conditions more particularly set forth below:
- All individuals currently living within Fort Bend County shall, except where necessary to provide or obtain Essential Services or engage in Essential Activities, Stay Home and Work Safe at their residence; and
- For the purposes of this Order, residences include hotels, motels, mobile homes, shared rentals, and similar facilities; and
- All persons experiencing homelessness are strongly urged to obtain shelter and maintain Social Distancing of at least six feet and other measures in accordance with current CDC guidelines when without shelter; governmental and other entities are urged to make such shelter available as soon as possible and to the extent practicable.
- Individuals may leave their residences to:
- Provide or obtain those services considered as “Essential Services”by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce Version 2.0, attached hereto. Other services may be added to the list of Essential Services with the approval of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (“TDEM”) and reflected on an online list of all Essential Services maintained by TDEM. Requests for additions should be directed to TDEM at EssentialServices@tdem.texas.gov or by visiting tdem.texas.gov/essentialservices; and
- In accordance with Executive Order GA-14, attend religious services in the event that religious services cannot be conducted from home or through remote services, authorized religious services shall be conducted in compliance with Executive Order GA-14 in a manner consistent with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, and by implementing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and
- Provide or obtain services from businesses set forth in (J) below.
- This Order does not prohibit people from providing or obtaining Essential Services or engaging in daily Essential Activities, such as:
- Engaging in activities or performing tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members (for example, obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies need to work from home); and
- Obtaining necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or delivering those services or supplies to others (for example, food, pet supply, and any other household consumer products, and products) necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences; and
- Engaging in outdoor activity, (for example, walking, biking, hiking, or running). Individuals may go to public parks and open outdoor recreation areas. However, playgrounds may increase spread of COVID-19, and therefore shall be closed. While engaging in outdoor activities, individuals shall maintain Social Distancing of at least six feet from non-family members and adhere to current CDC guidelines; and
- Caring for a family member or domestic animal in another household.
- All public or private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for performing or receiving religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship or as otherwise provided herein. Nothing in this Order prohibits the gathering of members of a household or living unit. To the extent individuals are using shared or outdoor spaces, they must at all times, maintain Social Distancing of at least six feet and other measures in accordance with current CDC guidelines when they are outside their residence; and
- All businesses operating within Fort Bend County, except for those providing Essential Services, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County. For clarity, all businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors providing services through remote telework from home unless they are Essential Services that cannot be provided through remote telework. Essential Services that cannot be conducted from home or through remote services should be conducted consistent with current Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, and by implementing Social Distancing of at least six feet by both employees and the general public.
- Public access to Fort Bend County offices and facilities shall be limited to essential functions including but not limited to court obligations, making payments, and obtaining permits. Please contact the appropriate department or court for instructions or authorization to appear – https://www.fortbendcountytx.gov/government/departments/county-administration/human-resources/employees/directory.
- Any person with knowledge that they have tested positive for or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or anyone who shares a household with such person shall abide by any order or instruction provided to them by an authorized medical professional or a local health authority to quarantine themselves.
- Any restrictions on hours of delivery for transport to or from any entity involved in the selling or distribution of food products, medicine, or medical supplies in Fort Bend County shall hereby be suspended for the duration of this Order to facilitate timely and efficient delivery of necessary products during this critical time.
- When engaging in Essential Activities, individuals must comply with the necessary precautions to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, including maintaining Social Distancing of at least six feet and any other measures prescribed by current CDC guidelines.
- For purposes of this Order, the following non-exclusive list of Essential Service providers shall not be required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County provided such establishments comply with the necessary precautions, subject to limitations of the design and layout of the establishment to conduct necessary transactions related the payment and distribution of services and goods to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, including maintaining Social Distancing of at least six feet and any other measures prescribed by CDC guidelines to control the transmission of the COVID-19 virus:
- Essential Retail.
- Food service providers, including grocery stores, warehouse stores, big-box stores, bodegas, liquor stores, gas stations and convenience stores, farmers’ markets that sell food products and household staples. Food cultivation, including farming, fishing, and livestock; and
- Restaurants and other establishments that serve food located in hospitals, long-term medical care facilities, rehabilitation or medical facilities, child care facilities, group homes, crisis and homeless shelters, assisted living facilities, retirement communities, congregate care facilities, long term care facilities, jails and detention facilities; and
- Restaurants and other establishments that serve food not included in the preceding subsection, with or without drive-in or drive-through services limited to serving food and/or alcohol by take out, delivery, or drive-through services as allowed by law. However, such restaurants and other establishments are prohibited from serving food and/or alcohol for consumption on the premises; and
- Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers; and
- Auto sales, auto service departments, auto supply, auto repair, and bicycle repair, hardware stores, and related facilities; and
- Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home; and
- Hotels and other temporary residential facilities; and
- Firearm retailers.
- Professional Services. Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, insurance services, and “real estate services” when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities or to further Essential Services. Professional “real estate services” shall include services provided by real estate brokers, agents, appraisers, inspectors, attorneys, mortgage lenders, escrow agents, title companies, and other settlement services. “Open House” events are specifically prohibited.
- Essential Services Necessary to Maintain Essential Operations of Residences or Other Essential Service Providers.
- Plumbers, electricians, exterminators (pest control services), refrigeration and air conditioning and heating services, yard maintenance and landscaping services, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences and other Essential Service providers; and
- Trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal, building cleaning, maintenance and security, warehouse/distribution and fulfillment, storage for residences and other Essential Service providers; and
- Services provided by caregivers and helpers who provide services to seniors and disabled individuals; and
- Mail and shipping services; and
- Funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries; and
- Veterinary care and all health and welfare services provided to animals; and
- Businesses that supply other Essential Service providers with support or supplies needed to operate, including employment agencies
- News Media. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services.
- Childcare Services. Childcare facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in this Order to work as permitted.
- Transportation. Businesses providing vehicles for hire, including public transportation, ridesharing services, and taxicabs, that enable persons to travel to perform Essential Activities and to receive or obtain such goods and/or services from other Essential Service providers.
- Ranching and Farming Operations.
- In accordance with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, people shall avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts, or visiting gyms, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios, or cosmetology salons; provided however, that use of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options for food and drinks is allowed and highly encouraged throughout the duration of this Order.
SECTION 5. Pursuant to Annex U, Section V. (A) (4) (a) of the Fort Bend County Emergency Operations Plan approved by Commissioners Court on January 15, 2019, and in accordance with Texas Government Code §418.173, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Bend County Fire Marshal’s Office, and other peace officers, as defined by Article 2.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, are hereby authorized to enforce this order, and the failure to comply with this Order is an offense punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or confinement in jail for a term of up to 180 days.
SECTION 6. Fort Bend County will post this Order on its website. In addition, the owner, manager, or operator of any facility that is likely to be impacted by this Order is strongly encouraged to post a copy of this Order onsite and to provide a copy to any member of the public asking for a copy. If any subsection, sentence, clause, phrase, or word of this Order or any application of it to any person, structure, gathering, or circumstance is held to be invalid or unconstitutional by a decision of a court of competent jurisdiction, then such decision will not affect the validity of this Order.
SECTION 7. This Order applies to all unincorporated and incorporated areas within the boundaries of Fort Bend County and shall be effective until 11:59 p.m. on April 30, 2020, unless a declaration of the local disaster for public health emergency is no longer in effect.
ORDERED this the __________ day of April, 2020.
KP George, County Judge
Laura Richard, County Clerk