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March 17, 2020
COVID-19 Special Edition 2
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HoustonEmergency.org/COVID19

Mayor Turner announces changes to Houston bar, nightclub and restaurant procedures
Houston Health Department broadens COVID-19 social distancing guidance

Mayor Sylvester Turner joined Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and local health officials Monday afternoon to announce new measures to help contain and mitigate COVID-19.

Mayor Turner and Judge Hidalgo ordered bars and nightclubs to close and food-service establishments to stop in-service dining for 15 days, effective at 8 a.m. on March 17, 2020.

The order does not affect restaurant carry-out, delivery or drive-thru services, third-party delivery services, or grocery stores. The goal is to gain compliance, but violations could result in citations.

"We are making tough decisions in the best interest of the city of Houston," Mayor Turner said. "We must take deliberative action to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and do everything possible to stop coronavirus from spreading."

The Houston Health Department also broadened its COVID-19 social distancing guidance for the general public. The department now recommends all Houstonians stay away from groups of 10 or more people where there will be close contact with others.

"While most healthy people will recover from COVID-19, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at increased risk of serious health consequences," said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. "If everyone avoids large gatherings, we will reduce the likelihood of young, healthy people giving their grandparents or immune-compromised friends a virus from which they may not recover."

Last week, Mayor Turner signed a proclamation declaring a Local State of Disaster Due to a Public Health Emergency to help contain and mitigate COVID-19 spread. As a result of the emergency order, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo closed and city-sponsored, produced, and permitted events were postponed or canceled through the end of March.

City council will meet in emergency session at 9 a.m., Tuesday, March 17 to consider extending the order indefinitely.

Mayor Turner and the Houston Health Department continue to encourage employers to allow their employees to work in ways that minimizes close contact with large groups of people. Suggestions include telecommute options, offering scheduling flexibility, and staggering start and end times.

"This is not a lock-down," Mayor Turner said. "Our goal is to flatten the curve and slow the progression of COVID-19 so that it does not overwhelm our health care system."

Most people with COVID-19 will feel like they have a bad cold or the flu. Some people will require hospitalization. People who are at most risk for severe illness are elderly or have other health conditions.

While COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus, daily precautions recommended to prevent respiratory illnesses are the same:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away. If you don't have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve. Don't use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick and keep children home when they are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Get a flu shot. (Although the flu shot does not protect against COVID-19, it is flu season.)

Houstonians should visit HoustonEmergency.org for updated information about local risk, routine protective actions, frequently asked questions, communication resources, rumor control, emergency preparedness tips, and more.

COVID-19 Cases in Houston: 5

  • Case 1: Male | Age 60-70 | Travel to Egypt | Home Recovering
  • Case 2: Female | Age 60-70 | Travel to Egypt | Home Recovering
  • Case 3: Female | Age 15-25 | Travel from New York | Recovering
  • Case 4: Female | Age 70-80 | Travel to Egypt | Home Recovering
  • Case 5: Male | Age 50-60 | Travel to Panama | Hospitalized

Guidance for all Houstonians

  • Avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • Avoid eating or drinking in bars, restaurants, and food courts – use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.
  • Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.
  • Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical care situations.
  • Practice healthy hygiene habits:
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve. Don’t use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially if you are at higher risk for coronavirus.
    • Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat healthy foods, and manage your stress to keep your immunity strong.
  • Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible.
  • Even if you are not ill, avoid visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities or nursing homes to the extent possible. If you do need to visit one of these facilities limit your time there and keep six feet away from patients.
  • If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule. You and your employers should follow CDC guidance to protect your health at work.
  • Stay informed. Information is changing frequently. Visit HoustonEmergency.org/covid19 frequently for updates.

COVID-19 call center open

The Houston Health Department is operating a COVID-19) call center for Houston residents needing more information COVID-19.

Houstonians can call the center at 832-393-4220 to speak to department staff and obtain information about the disease or get their questions answered.

The call center will open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

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The Houston Health Department (HHD) works in partnership with the community to promote and protect the health and social well-being of Houstonians and the environment in which they live. HHD is a full-service health department that not only performs all core functions of a Public Health Department but also many enhanced functions including initiatives to address health inequities. HHD services
benefit all Houston residents but the department also takes additional steps to support those most in need, such as low-income mothers and children, the elderly and minority populations. Most HHD functions serve the 2.3 million residents of the City of Houston but the scope and impact extends into Harris County’s population of 4.7 million people through the department’s Area Aging on Aging, Bureau of Youth and Adolescent Health, Project Saving Smiles, See to Succeed, immunization strategies, syndromic surveillance and HIV-STD surveillance. HHD’s laboratory also services a 17-county region.


Lern more at HoustonHealth.org.






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