Texas Gov. Greg Abbott doesn’t want to issue a shelter-in-place order for the state, but he warned it could be coming if we don’t heed his previous orders about stopping the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.
On Friday, Abbott closed schools, bars and gyms and banned dine-in eating at restaurants. He limited social gatherings to fewer than 10 people. Penalties include fines of up to $1,000 and potential jail time of 180 days.
“Stricter standards will be taken,” if necessary, he said. “If you don’t have an essential reason for leaving your home, you should not be leaving your home.”
The vast majority of people who contract the virus recover within weeks. It causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but it can lead to more severe illnesses, including pneumonia, especially in older adults and people with preexisting health problems.
Abbott didn’t want to issue the shelter-in-place order, but he did nothing to prevent cities and counties from doing so.
Dallas County did just that on Sunday. Waco and McLennan County issued a similar order on Monday. Austin Mayor Steve Adler said a shelter-in-place order for Austin and Travis County will be issued today, while shelter-in-place orders for other municipalities are imminent.
Angelina County Commissioners could take that action during this morning’s meeting.
They will consider extending the Local State of Disaster Declaration. The original disaster declaration was made by County Judge Don Lymbery in conjunction with the city of Lufkin and only lasts through March 27. It requires an extension by commissioners.
The declaration enacts three regulations:
■ Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.
■ Dine-in services at restaurants are prohibited; restaurants and food services must use take-out, delivery, drive-in or drive-thru services.
■ Bars, lounges, taverns, private clubs, gyms, health studios, theaters and commercial amusement facilities are to be closed.
Failure to abide by these regulations may result in a $1,000 fine or confinement in the county’s jail for a term that does not exceed 180 days.
Shelter-in-place orders require residents to stay home, although it allows them to go outside and engage in outdoor activities as long as they keep their distance from others. Residents are only permitted to leave their homes for critical needs — grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and emergency rooms. All non-essential businesses must close.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed exasperation Sunday that people were still ignoring orders to stay away from one another, saying he’s still seeing people clustering in groups acting like it was just another spring weekend. Unfortunately, similar scenes played out in East Texas and around the country over the weekend.
In the face of the invisible danger the coronavirus presents, it has to stop. And it has to stop now.
Perhaps Cuomo said it best: “It’s insensitive. It’s arrogant. It’s self-destructive. It’s disrespectful to other people.”