Can I go grocery shopping? Yes.
Can I have the AC repair guy over? Yes.
Can I go to my job at the bank or the refinery? Yes.
Can I go fishing? Yes, as long as you stand at least 6 feet from the angler next to you.
Galveston County’s stay-at-home order went into effect on Wednesday morning, and many local people said at least part of the last day and a half was spent trying to wrap their head around what, exactly, the order means for them.
The seven-page order issued Monday evening begins by requiring all individuals living in Galveston County to remain at their place of residence through April 3.
But the plan then moves on to describe the essential businesses not subject to the order.
In announcing the stay-at-home plan on Monday, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said the county’s decree carved out so many exceptions that most people and businesses would not be affected by the order.
The county’s top lawyer said Wednesday it was the county’s design not to try to go business by business and list out which ones should be open or closed.
“The Galveston County order is intended to allow businesses the flexibility to evaluate their operations, read the order for themselves and make a serious decision about whether they qualify to continue work on site,” said Paul Ready, Galveston County’s general counsel.
If someone is reading the order and doesn’t see how their business might qualify for an exception, “they probably know their answer,” Ready said.
Still, in places around the county, residents and city leaders were trying to get used to the new rules. In Galveston and Friendswood, city work crews put up fencing and caution tape around playground equipment.
Friendswood resident David Hendrickson said he called city hall Wednesday to ensure that it was OK to go fishing on the island after leaders ordered public piers closed.
The order doesn’t prevent people from fishing along the shores, however.
“My wife called them, and they told us what the rules are and we decided that we weren’t breaking any rules to come fish,” Hendrickson said. “When they say it’s a stay-at-home order, you’re thinking if they see you driving down the street, they’re going to pull you over.”
That’s not the case. There are no limits on travel within the county and the county’s order does allow people to exercise outside, provided they stay at least six feet away from other people. Hendrickson, a solo fisherman, was safe.
In League City, Rodney Dunklee wondered whether he could continue to have an air-conditioner repairman over to fix his unit. With temperatures hitting a seasonally unusual high of 90 degrees Wednesday, the repairs felt urgent and necessary, he said.
“What I saw is that all business should stop that’s non-essential,” Dunklee said. “It was confusing about what was essential and what was non-essential. For the long term, not having air conditioning would make my quality of life very poor.
“Could we live opening the windows for a few days? We could, but it wouldn’t be a comfortable existence,” he said.
The order does allow services “necessary to maintain essential operations of residences,” to continue operating during the stay-at-home order, and officials said that would include air conditioning repairs.
The point of the order is to help keep people away from each other and limit the spread of the coronavirus in the community, Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County’s local health authority, said Tuesday.
Although there may be many exceptions to the law, people who are thinking about going out in public or having people over during the next few weeks should reflect on their choices seriously, he said.
“If you can stay home, stay home,” Keiser said. “We want people to do the things that they need to do to live and, for the most part, stay home.”