Harris County, Texas – June 26, 2020, Today at noon, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo will update the county’s COVID-19 public threat level from significant (orange, level two) to severe (red, level one). Level one indicates a “severe and uncontrolled” level of COVID-19, meaning outbreaks are worsening, contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded, and healthcare surge is likely. The elevation to threat level 1 – the highest in the system – comes as a variety of data demonstrate alarming trends that are on track to overwhelm the local healthcare system.
“The harsh truth is that our current infection rate is on pace to overwhelm our hospitals in the very near future,” Judge Hidalgo said. “We hope this serves as a wakeup call to everyone that the time to act is now. I’m calling on all residents and businesses to take immediate action to help our medical community get this virus back in check before it spirals beyond control and more lives are needlessly sacrificed. Stay and work from home except for essential business. Wear a face covering if you absolutely have to be out. We’ve flattened the curve before, and we can do it again, but we need to buckle down and do this together.”
Under a level one threat, the public is urged to:
- Stay home, except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine
- Avoid and cancel all gatherings of any size.
- Essential workers practice special precautions to prevent spread.
- All vulnerable individuals (65+ or with pre-existing health conditions) stay home.
- Self-quarantine for 14 days if in close and prolonged contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19.
- Wear face coverings to protect others.
- Avoid non-essential business and personal travel. Avoid public transportation where possible.
- Cancel visits to nursing homes, long term care facilities, and hospitals.
- Avoid and cancel all indoor and outdoor gatherings, including concerts, rodeos, large sporting events, etc. Schools and after-school activities for youth close, as directed by educational authorities.
Area hospitals have reached their full ICU base capacity and are now relying on surge space to treat patients. The number of daily cases and hospitalizations have also reached their highest point since the beginning of the pandemic.
Additionally, Judge Hidalgo announced effective immediately, she will implement a ban on all gatherings of 100 or more people in unincorporated Harris County and encourage cities across the county to do the same.
Harris County is ready to deploy a medical shelter at NRG to serve as a backup should the hospital system become overwhelmed by new cases beyond the existing surge capacity space that remains. The costs for the medical shelter are expected to be 100 percent reimbursed federal funds, either from FEMA funds or CARES Act funding already allocated to the county.
For a complete list of indicators, including stay home guidance visit ReadyHarris.org.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is the head of Harris County’s governing body and Director of the Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Judge Hidalgo, alongside four County Precinct Commissioners, oversees a budget of approximately $5 billion that funds services and institutions for the third-largest county in the nation, home to nearly 5 million people. For more information about Harris County and the Office of the County Judge, please visit: cjo.harriscountytx.gov.