Texas judge calls neighboring county's restaurant closures illegal

GALVESTON, Texas -- A Texas judge says his county won't follow in a neighboring county's footsteps regarding the closure of bars and restaurants.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry says the order is "illegal," and is not something he is contemplating.

"I think this just makes things worse and causes more panic," Henry said. "(COVID 19) is serious, but this can lead to more panic and devastation for people."

His statement came after Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo ordered all bars and nightclubs shut down in order to maintain social distancing for at least 15 days. Houston is part of Harris County.

Additionally, all Harris County restaurants have been ordered to close their dining rooms and can only operate through the drive-thru and to-go orders.

"None of these decisions that we're having to make are easy decisions," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "They are simply not easy. Especially when you recognize that when you're making a decision, you're impacting people's livelihoods."

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Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell said the city is "strongly" recommending that people do not congregate in areas with 10 or more people but has not issued such a restrictive order.

The city is also monitoring bar and restaurant attendance to see if some action is required.

He acknowledged that Harris County's decision could lead to an influx of people to the island. Galveston already has larger than expected crowds for spring break amidst COVID-19 concerns.

Maxwell said the influx of people could prove to be a two-edged sword and risk spreading the virus and the inability to track the spread.

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