When Allyn Hoover of Rosenberg heard the sheriff’s department was going to hand out free bottles of disinfectant, she made sure she was among the first in line on Friday.
But others had the same idea.
Some arrived at the Gus George Law Enforcement Center in Richmond before sun up.
By midmorning, the line of automobiles on Richmond Parkway stretched from the training center to the overpass on U.S. 59 and to the U.S. 90A bridge in the opposite direction.
Allyn and her children got their free jug of disinfectant at 2 p.m.
“This is crazy,” she said. “It took us four hours. We had no idea the line would be this long. My kids haven’t even eat lunch yet.”
While some grumbled about the wait, most were happy to get some disinfectant, which is scarce at stores countywide since the potentially deadly coronavirus arrived in the U.S. two weeks ago.
Sheriff’s deputies directed traffic, checked driver’s licenses for proof of residency and had drivers sign forms freeing the county of any responsibility if the disinfectant caused harm.
One deputy said he had counted 2,000 automobiles passing through the line between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“We honestly didn’t expect this volume,” Sheriff Troy Nehls told the Herald reporter.
Seconds later Nehls passed a clipboard with the form to a driver.
“Remember, when the jug’s empty, don’t throw it away,” Nehls told the vehicle’s occupants. Bring it back to us and we will refill it for you.”
Further down the drive-thru line, county jail inmates wearing orange and white-striped dungarees filled jugs with the disinfectant. Other inmates kept the supply stocked as deputies distributed the cleanser to drivers.
“I’m going to recruit more help right now,” one deputy said as he headed across the street to the county jail.
The giveaway was the brainchild of Greatwood resident Robert Berry, a consultant for De Nora, a disinfection systems manufacturer based in Sugar Land.
The company has 14 mobile disinfecting units it uses to clean water flushed from oil and gas wells.
“My wife called me and said she couldn’t find any bleach at the stores around town and it got me to thinking that De Nora can manufacture its own disinfectant,” Berry recalled.
He contacted Nehls who agreed the idea had merit.
The disinfectant and bottles are paid for through the county’s COVID-19 Project funds, explained Precinct 1 Commissioner Vincent Morales Jr.
By declaring a state of disaster, county commissioners hope to be reimbursed for the cost from the state or federal government at a later date, he added.
The mobile disinfecting unit is about the size of a mobile home and is set up in the parking lot of the law enforcement academy.
The product is not hand sanitizer, Berry said.
The disinfectant is to be used on surface areas only.
Nehls said the giveaway program shows that Fort Bend County is taking a pro-active approach to combat COVID-19.
“What a great opportunity to address a deadly virus,” he said.
Why so many people showed up on the first day of the giveaway is anybody’s guess.
The disinfectant will be given away seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of the Gus George Law Enforcement Academy.
“This is not a one day operation,” Nehls said.
To help expedite the process residents are asked to fill out the waiver, print it out and bring with them in the drive-thru line.
Anyone inquiring about delivery to elderly or disabled residents are encouraged to email the name, driver’s license number, address and phone number to email@example.com.
YANA stands for You Are Not Alone and is a branch of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office that keeps tabs on senior citizens.
“Please be patient as we’re receiving many requests,” Nehls said.
“We have all hands on deck. We will get through this together.”