Galveston County likely will extend its stay-at-home order past Friday, the originally planned end date, County Judge Mark Henry said Sunday.
Sunday marked the fifth full day of the local stay-at-home order. Henry and mayors of all 12 cities in the county jointly announced the order March 23. It went into effect at 11:59 p.m. March 24.
The order strongly urges county residents to stay home and nonessential businesses to close to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It includes a long list of exemptions that have allowed people to leave their homes to shop or exercise and allow businesses to choose to stay open.
The order was to have remained in effect until April 3.
An extension of the orders seems likely because there had been no signs that social distancing efforts had slowed the number of people being infected in the county, Henry said.
“Just like everything, we’re taking it day by day, but I find it unlikely we will let them expire,” Henry said.
On the day the order was announced, 18 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Galveston County. By 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the number had increased to 70.
Galveston County Local Health Authority Philip Keiser, who is guiding the county’s response to the pandemic, said it could take weeks before the effects of the county’s orders become apparent.
“We’re not seeing the decline in numbers,” Henry said. “There’s just not been a significant drop in numbers.”
The stay-at-home order is not the only precaution reaching a deadline this week. Gov. Greg Abbott’s public health disaster declaration, which closed bars and restaurant dining rooms statewide, and barred social gatherings of more than 10 people, is set to end April 3.
Abbott, who spoke to Texans through a televised address Sunday, announced no changes to the original order. He did, however, say he expected new federal guidance about social distancing in coming days, and the state would use the information to make its own decisions.
On Sunday evening, President Donald Trump announced he was extending federal social distancing guidelines for another 30 days. A 15-day federal social distancing guideline was set to end on Monday.
Galveston County likely will wait for the state to make an official decision about its policies before making its own changes, Henry said.
The city of Galveston’s orders closing short-term rentals and hotels also were to expire at the end of this week.
Other precautions are of longer duration. Galveston, for instance, has canceled all events that require a city permit through the end of May.