Houston, Harris County expected to order bar closures, restaurant restrictions – USA DAILY NEWS

Houston, Harris County expected to order bar closures, restaurant restrictions

By Zach Despart, Jasper Scherer and Mike Morris

Updated

  • VIENNA, AUSTRIA - MARCH 16: A general view of the empty outside seating area at the Segafredo cafe following the cafe's 3pm closure as part of restrictions imposed by the Austrian government to stem the spread of the coronavirus on March 16, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. Across Austria restaurants, cafes, movie theatres, non-essential shops and other public venues are closing for the coming weeks. The government is also banning gatherings of more than five people and demanding people stay at home unless they need to venture out for work, to get provisions or to care of others. (Photo by Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images) Photo: Thomas Kronsteiner, Staff / Getty Images / 2020 Getty Images

    VIENNA, AUSTRIA – MARCH 16: A general view of the empty outside seating area at the Segafredo cafe following the cafe’s 3pm closure as part of restrictions imposed by the Austrian government to stem the spread of the coronavirus on March 16, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. Across Austria restaurants, cafes, movie theatres, non-essential shops and other public venues are closing for the coming weeks. The government is also banning gatherings of more than five people and demanding people stay at home unless they need to venture out for work, to get provisions or to care of others. (Photo by Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

    less

    VIENNA, AUSTRIA – MARCH 16: A general view of the empty outside seating area at the Segafredo cafe following the cafe’s 3pm closure as part of restrictions imposed by the Austrian government to stem the spread

    … more

    Photo: Thomas Kronsteiner, Staff / Getty Images

Photo: Thomas Kronsteiner, Staff / Getty Images

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – MARCH 16: A general view of the empty outside seating area at the Segafredo cafe following the cafe’s 3pm closure as part of restrictions imposed by the Austrian government to stem the spread of the coronavirus on March 16, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. Across Austria restaurants, cafes, movie theatres, non-essential shops and other public venues are closing for the coming weeks. The government is also banning gatherings of more than five people and demanding people stay at home unless they need to venture out for work, to get provisions or to care of others. (Photo by Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

less

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – MARCH 16: A general view of the empty outside seating area at the Segafredo cafe following the cafe’s 3pm closure as part of restrictions imposed by the Austrian government to stem the spread

… more

Photo: Thomas Kronsteiner, Staff / Getty Images

Houston and Harris County officials are expected to order the indefinite closure of bars in the city and unincorporated areas, a move intended to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, according to sources with direct knowledge of the discussions.

Officials still were discussing Monday afternoon whether to restrict the number of patrons at local restaurants or limit orders to takeout, delivery and drive-thru orders.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Lina Hidalgo were scheduled to convene a news conference at 5 p.m.

By Monday morning, the three largest cities in the United States — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, had ordered bars, restaurants and other gathering places closed to slow the spread of coronavirus as confirmed cases in the country approached 4,000.

The closures came as the Centers for Disease Control on Sunday recommended that no events with more than 50 people take place over the next eight weeks.

In fourth-most-populous Houston, however, officials Monday morning had said taking that drastic step would be premature. Mary Benton, spokeswoman for Mayor Sylvester Turner, said Sunday the city’s health department was giving guidance to local restaurants and bars about social distancing and large gatherings.

“Until and if the mayor receives a directive from the local health authorities, that’s going to be the status in the City of Houston right now,” Benton said in a statement.

Earlier Monday, Turner had declined to reveal details about the city’s plan regarding bars and restaurants. He said city officials “evaluate the situation every single day” and would meet with county officials to discuss the matter later today, and added that he will “probably have some additional announcements before the day is out.”

Many in the community questioned the city’s decision to allow the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to operate for 14 days before shuttering the event March 11 after discovering a coronavirus case originated there. Health officials have have linked at least two more cases to the rodeo.

There were 29 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Houston area as of Monday morning. That figure likely represents a fraction of actual cases, health officials say, because of limited testing capabilities.

In addition to the major city actions, the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio have severely restricted the ability of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues to operate. Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to make any such pronouncements for Texas.

This story will be updated.


zach.despart@chron.com


jasper.scherer@chron.com