On March 23, 2020, Mayors Karl Mooney and Andrew Nelson, along with County Judge Duane Peters, issued a shelter-in-place order for Brazos County and the cities of Bryan and College Station. There is a lot of information in the order, but here are the basics of what you need to know.
- The order goes into effect at 9:00 pm on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 and remains in effect until 11:59 pm on Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Citizens of Brazos County have been given until March 24 at 9 pm to conduct any nonessential business or travel. This allows people time to run errands, conduct business, and otherwise wrap up any activities that would not be considered “essential” after March 24.
This order DOES NOT mean people are under house arrest. Residents of the county and cities are permitted to leave their homes for essential business and may go outside to take walks, run essential errands, etcetera, while bearing in mind the previous order to avoid groups of 10 or more people. Greening Law previously told you that congregating in groups larger than 10 people can lead to your arrest under Gov’t Code 418.173.
For any of the following activities, it is important to maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet when out in public to minimize the possibility of transmitting the virus and continue to practice frequent hand washing and other cleaning behaviors.
This order DOES NOT include a curfew. Other counties in the Brazos Valley have issued curfews either for juveniles or for any activity during certain hours, but the Brazos County order does not have any curfew.
- The order affects “nonessential” business, public and personal gatherings, and travel
The main question will be determining what is considered “essential” and “nonessential.” The mayors and county judge provided guidance to clarify that. Below are categories and selected industries and activities that are considered essential. It is not an exhaustive list but does provide an overview of most businesses in our community.
a. Healthcare operations will remain open. These are things like doctors’ offices, dentists, hospitals, pharmacies, mental healthcare providers, home healthcare service providers, as well as related healthcare services. Gyms and fitness studios are NOT considered essential healthcare providers.
b. Citizens are allowed to participate in essential activities. Broadly speaking, these are activities essential to the health and safety of yourself, your family, or your household. Your household includes your pets. Activities like grocery shopping, obtaining medical care and supplies, caring for a family member in a different household, performing work related to an essential business, and outdoor activity are all permitted under this order.
c. Essential infrastructure will remain operational. Airport operations, solid waste pickup and disposal, public transportation, as well as Internet and other telecommunications providers are considered essential and will remain in business. Water, electrical, sewer, and gas providers are also essential and will remain open.
Importantly, first responders, emergency medical providers, and court personnel are CATEGORICALLY EXEMPT from this order. This means law enforcement, firefighters, EMS workers, and 911 dispatchers all remain on the job and providing services to citizens. It also means that, as your attorneys at Greening Law, we will remain open for business and actively working to maintain contact with clients and the Courts throughout the length of this order.
d. Essential government functions are determined by the individual government entity. The functions that are determined to be essential by that entity will then maintain operations with the staff necessary to do so.
e. Essential businesses remain open. Generally speaking, these are businesses that provide essential services or contribute to the health and safety of the community. Grocery stores, liquor stores, hardware stores, gas stations, and banks will all remain open during this time. Additionally, plumbers, electricians, and other businesses related to maintaining the safety and sanitation of homes and businesses will continue to operate. Healthcare providers and related medical businesses remain open. Restaurants remain open for to-go and curbside service. Transportation services, food delivery providers, and businesses that provide support and supplies to work from home remain open. Childcare providers are considered essential and will remain open subject to some updated policies regarding size of the group and how the providers interact with children.
f. Travel is permitted but restricted. Citizens can leave their homes for activities related to the categories listed above. Additionally, travel is permitted to care for elderly, minor, or otherwise vulnerable citizens. You may travel to your home from outside this area. Citizens may travel under a court order or other law enforcement directive. Families with children in school may travel to the schools to pick up materials related to distance learning and meals.
- Violation of this order is a Class C misdemeanor
Because this virus is considered a public health risk, the Mayors and County Judge have imposed punishments for violators of this order. If you are found to have violated this order, you are subject to a fine of not less than ONE DOLLAR ($1.00) and not more than ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($1,000.00). The order also specifies that each day someone is in violation of this order is a SEPARATE offense, which means the punishment can be assessed for each day. Violators are also subject to incarceration of up to 180 days in county jail.
Although law enforcement may not want to increase the jail population at this time, the fact that there is an enforcement mechanism and incarceration is possible indicates that local officials are serious about this order and about enforcing it. If you have any questions about this order or have been accused of violating it, please call us at Greening Law so we can evaluate your case and help you through the process.