As Houston and Harris County gets ready to isolate even more with a “stay home, work safe” order from local leaders Tuesday, officials say violators could face jail time and fines.
Law enforcement officials in the city and county have been told it’s up to them to enforce this order. Both the Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and the Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo say they will try to educate the public, but severe violators will face punishment.
Houstonians were seen crowded outside a beauty supply store Tuesday, trying to get last-minute items before the store closed as part of the order.
“We are going to use common sense,” Acevedo said. “We are going to use courtesy and we are going to ask people when they think they are doing something that is a violation of this order. We are going to ask people to comply and we believe that by using some compassion and some common courtesy, we will be able to be just fine.”
Both agencies say officers will be looking for areas where there are gatherings to disperse the crowd and educate them. Acevedo also foresees situations where people might go out of their way to break the order.
“Some bar opening up and letting 100 people in there, that’s different than all the sudden we have 12 people at a family gathering at a party,” he said.
Gonzales said his agency will focus on “the (businesses) that are supposed to be closed and even those allowed to remain open.”
“For the businesses that are essential, (we will) make sure that their employees are maintaining the spirit of the ordinance as well,” Gonzalez said.
The order condemns violators to be fined up to $1,000 and/or up to 180 days of jail time.
Harris County has established a hotline to report businesses not in compliance with the new order. The number is 832-839-6941.
Officials issued a stay-home-work-safe order Tuesday for Harris County and Houston as leaders work to slow the spread of coronavirus through the Houston area, where more than 190 cases of the virus have been reported.
The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday and will remain in effect until April 3.
Here’s a closer look at what the order means for you:
- Everyone must remain at home unless they are conducting essential business such as grocery shopping, picking up food or going to work at businesses that are deemed essential.
- Public and private gatherings outside of a household or single living unit are prohibited.
- Parks will remain open, but the use of benches, playgrounds and workout equipment is prohibited.
- Everyone must maintain social distancing of at least six feet.
- Grocery stores and gas stations remain open.
- Restaurants can operate, but only as a take-out option.
- Violators could face a fine and up to 180 days in jail, but officials said they will use common sense and courtesy when deciding whether someone will be charged with a crime.