As COVID-19 cases in the Houston metro area top 50,000, new restrictions are in place to try to slow the wildfire spread of the virus. We’re now at Level 1 on the COVID-19 risk scale, which means severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 transmission with outbreaks present and worsening. The county advises that residents should stay home whenever possible and minimize contact with others. To help you and those around you stay safe and out of trouble, here are some guidelines to keep in mind.
1. Just wear the mask!
Face masks are required in all businesses in Harris County through August 26, according to a new order from County Judge Lina Hidalgo. In addition, masks are now mandated throughout Texas. Businesses that don’t comply are subject to a fine of up to $1000, so please don’t give the poor retail employee tasked with enforcing the mask at the front door any trouble, ok? They’re doing their job and trying to protect their customers. The mask order applies to customers over 10. Diners can remove their masks to eat and drink when out at restaurants but need to be worn at other times while dining out. (For example, while waiting for your food or the check.)
2. Have your cocktails at home
Bars are closed throughout Texas, and as much as it’s a bummer not to be able to go out and let loose on the weekend, there’s sound logic behind it. After all, intoxicated people are not known for their stellar ability to follow rules, exercise good judgement, and keep a safe distance from strangers. Luckily for our fellow cocktail aficionados, liquor stores are still open, so grab a cocktail shaker and get to work. Check out the Barefoot Contessa for some grade-A beverage recipes. (That Ina Garten knows how to party.)
3. Limit dining out
Restaurants are allowed to stay open at 50% capacity, and many are focusing on takeout orders to limit exposure. After the number of cases continued to spiral out of control, the state limited restaurant capacity back down to half, after restaurants had been reopened to 75% previously. There have also been tons of instances of restaurants shutting down entirely after one or more staff members testing positive. Now is a great time to brush up on your cooking skills (or at least stick to takeout.)
4. Keep your distance
Whenever possible, keep six feet between you and others who aren’t part of your household. For some of us it’s really strange not to greet friends with a hug or shake hands when meeting someone, but for the time being, it’s safer not to do it. Don’t be that person creeping up in somebody’s personal space bubble in the checkout line at the grocery store, ok? Those floor markers showing how far apart to space yourself are there for a reason.
5. Stay home if you can
Look, we’re in urgent need of a haircut too, and a mani-pedi sounds amazing, but minimize non-essential outings as much as you can so we can all get this over with a little sooner. If it’s an unnecessary outing, wait for a better time, or make it a curbside pickup order whenever possible.
6. Take the party online
It’s really tough for those of us who enjoy hosting events to let special occasions pass by uncelebrated, but you really, really don’t want to be making the news for being that family that had a holiday gathering that ended with twenty relatives in the hospital. There have been waaaayyy too many of those stories lately, so as much as it pains us to say it, there will be other birthdays, other holidays, and better times to gather with all your loved ones in person. Take it virtual and celebrate with a Zoom baby shower or FaceTime happy hour. It’s not the same, but it’s safer for everyone.
Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed, but that still doesn’t make it wise to have one. Besides, it’s way too hot right now for an outdoor party and the mosquitos are out of control. So let’s all agree to wait and eventually have the world’s most epic “St. Patrick’s-Easter-Mother’s/Father’s Day-birthday-Cinco de Mayo of July” when this is all over and invite everybody we’ve ever met.
We totally understand that all the new rules are a bummer, and like you, can’t wait for things to get back to normal. We miss our friends, nights out, spin class, lazy brunch, days running errands without a care in the world, and being able to hop on a plane whenever we need to get away. But until everyone can work together to get this crisis under control and prevent the virus from spreading, we aren’t going to get back to any semblance of normal anytime soon. If we all do our part to protect ourselves and protect each other, we’ll see ourselves out of this mess a lot sooner. Stay home, and stay safe, friends!