Anderson County Judge Robert Johnston

To prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Judge Robert Johnston issued a Stay-at-Home Order Thursday for Anderson County. The executive order, effective immediately, comes a day after Anderson County closed all non-essential businesses. It will remain in effect until further notice.

“It's basically to restrict the number of people in our stores,” Mayor Steve Presley told the Herald-Press Thursday. “Right now, there are so many people, there's no way they can avoid close contact.

“People cannot go to Walmart to visit.”

In a separate but related order Thursday, the county directed “mass retailers” to limit the number of family members entering their stores to one person at a time. So-called mass retailers include Walmart, grocery stores, Dollar Stores, supermarkets, and Tractor Supply.

“This will greatly reduce the possibility of contact with someone who may be a carrier of the virus,” the order states.

Johnston told the Herald-Press that “people can still do what they need to do.”

“But everyone doesn't need to go to the store,” he said. “Go take care of business, then go back home.”

If residents don't comply with the Stay-at-Home Order, Presley said, Anderson County, with nearly 60,000 people, will need to consider tighter restrictions, including limiting the number of people in a store.

Another option would be to issue a “Shelter-in-Place Order,” further restricting people's movements and possibly requiring residents to carry travel documents when moving about the community.

“If people can't follow the rules,” Presley said, “we'll have to issue stronger orders.”

Law enforcement officers will monitor compliance with the new orders.

The Stay-at-Home Order issued Thursday does not prohibit people from accessing essential services or engaging in essential daily activities, such as trips to grocery stores or gas stations. It does, however, ask them to engage in shopping trips alone, without family members or other people.

The order also does not prohibit visiting parks, hunting or fishing, or engaging in physical activities like jogging or bicycling – if necessary precautions are taken, such as practicing social distancing of at least six feet.

On March 23, Johnston and the Commissioners Court issued a declaration of disaster for Anderson County, which confirmed its first case of COVID-19 Tuesday.The female patient remains in quarantine at home.

On Wednesday, a Harris County resident who works in Anderson County was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus. That case is not included in Anderson County's official COVID-19 count of one case. The patient was tested in Harris County and remains in quarantine there.

Wednesday's order to close non-essential businesses affected dozens of businesses in Anderson County, such as bowling alleys, barber shops, clothing and shoe stores, and hair and nail salons. Some non-essential businesses had already closed due to widespread fear of COVID-19.

The order does not affect “essential services,” such as grocery stores, gas stations, daycare providers, pharmacies, dry cleaners, laundromats, and liquor stores.

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