Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Monday what many people have expected—the emergency orders in response to COVID-19 will not end this week. She said the emergency order that was initially effective through April 3 will be extended and that she expected to announce how long that extension will be today.
“The reality of it is, the question is not whether we’ll be extending the order; it’s really a question of for how long.”
She said the decision is difficult. “It’s a burden we have to bear for the sake of our health and for the sake of saving lives.”
She said she is consulting with mayors and medical experts in hopes of providing some level of certainty about how long the order will last.
Hidalgo also said that, once the order ends, it will probably mean a gradual loosening of restrictions rather than an immediate return to normal, as the virus will still be around.
When asked about the decision in Dallas County to convert a convention center into a hospital for COVID-19 patients, Hidalgo said that the county is working on plans to use the NRG complex for that purpose if the need arises.
The first plan to expand hospital capacity, she said, is hospitals adding capacity within their existing facilities. The second approach will be for hospitals to use their own plans for surge capacity, such as expansion into tents or parking garages.
Only if the hospitals run out of available surge capacity will the county consider activating NRG as a medical facility.
The Houston and Harris County health departments announced 37 new cases of the COVID-19 virus in the county Monday, bringing the total confirmed so far to 563—309 of those in Houston, 254 elsewhere in the county.
Three people have died from the virus in Houston and two elsewhere in the county.
Harris County Public Health reports that 39 people have recovered from COVID-19 in their jurisdiction outside the City of Houston.
By Monday afternoon, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 2,877 cases confirmed in the state, with 38 total deaths attributed to the virus. Harris County and Dallas County reported the most cases, with about 500 each.
Statewide, about 35,880 people have been tested. Hidalgo said the Harris County sites have tested more than 3,700 people through Sunday, and a similar number have been tested by the City of Houston.