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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Urges Houstonians to Stay at Home

The order isn’t mandatory, but Hidalgo insists that staying home is the only way to save lives

Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo, standing in center
Office of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has issued a new stay-at-home advisory for country residents, effective as of noon today, saying that the county is current at the highest threat level for COVID-19.

The advisory mirrors language from Harris County’s original stay-at-home order issued in March, but because of constraints put on local governments by the office of Texas governor Greg Abbott, this new advisory is not mandatory. Still, Hidalgo said during a press conference Friday morning, the only way to save the lives of Houstonians and nearby residents is for every resident to avoid all nonessential trips outside of the home, which includes dining out in restaurants.

She also recommended that residents avoid nonessential travel, cancel any gathering with people who do not reside in the same home, and that essential workers practice extra caution to keep themselves safe. Hidalgo’s recommendations come just hours after Abbott announced a roll-back of the Open Texas plan, mandating that bars close for business at noon today, and that restaurants decrease capacity to 50%.

Texas was an early success story in flattening the curve, but many critics have pointed to a premature reopening of the state’s economy in May as the main cause leading to a spike in infections. Yesterday, Texas hit an all-time high, with 5,000 more new cases of coronavirus reported.

Using forceful language, and at times sounding emotional, Hidalgo said that the county’s public safety systems, including ICU beds throughout the area, were already strained and at capacity, and that without serious effort, the situation would worsen. She also harkened back to Hurricane Harvey, and the efforts of the community to take care of one another after the storm.

“This pandemic is like an invisible hurricane,” she said. “A real expression of freedom is protecting your father, your mother, or your neighbor. History will remember the action we take now. We are nothing if not resilient.”

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