Hidalgo says there is no curfew in Harris County to stem the spread of COVID-19 – for now

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Wednesday refused to issue a curfew to limit the spread of COVID-19, but left the option open in case the pandemic continues to get worse here.

Hidalgo and the Mayor of Houston, Turner, asked residents to cancel Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties and travel plans and, instead, limit meetings to their families.

“The easiest way to show loved ones that you love them this holiday is to stay home,” said Hidalgo.

Texas Medical Center leaders issued a similar joint appeal on Tuesday, noting that the hospital system exceeded its basic ICU capacity for most of December.

Turner earlier this month considered curfew as a last resort, but said he would remain “in my arsenal”.

Houston’s COVID-19 metrics continue to deteriorate, with 2,361 hospitalizations on Monday, the highest since August 7. In the 25 county counties anchored by Houston, 94 percent of ICU beds are occupied, according to the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council.

“We’ve seen our positivity rate double in the past two months, and if we continue on this path, it could triple by January,” said Dr. Sherri Onyiego, public health authority in Harris County. “That is why it is extremely important for us to avoid any type of meeting during this holiday season.”

Several Texas jurisdictions have issued curfews, including El Paso and Bexar counties. It is the most powerful constraint that local leaders can order. Since late April, Governor Greg Abbott’s reopening rules for Texas have prevented cities and counties from issuing their own home orders.

After Cameron County Judge Richard Cortez announced a stay order in July, while the pandemic ravaged the Rio Grande Valley, the governor’s office said it was unenforceable. During the first wave of COVID-19 in Texas in the summer, Hidalgo unsuccessfully pressured Abbott for the power to issue restrictions on staying at home.

Instead, it created a virus threat-level system for Harris County, which includes a series of guidelines. Since June, the county has been at the highest threat level, which encourages residents to stay home when possible and to avoid unnecessary contact with others.

Dr. David Persse, a health authority in the city of Houston, said contact trackers found that social gatherings, including parties, weddings and funerals, are vectors of the virus.

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