HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- County and city leaders announced a threat level system on Thursday in hopes of getting the public to understand that disaster may be approaching when it comes to COVID-19.
"We're the third largest county in America. We are the epicenter of this COVID outbreak in Texas," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
As of Thursday, Houston is reportedly at a level two, labeled by the color orange on the new scale, which is a significant threat. Health officials continue to stress that residents must minimize contact as much as possible while continuing to social distance and wear masks.
They said as enticing as it is to be out and about, that is something we just cannot do at this time.
"Life, as usual, probably will not be returning anytime soon if we want to avoid a disaster in our county," said Hildago.
So, why have they decided to sound the alarm?
This week, hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients are the highest they have ever been, and the number continues to increase.
14 days after the "Stay Home, Work Safe" order was set in place, hospitalizations had leveled out some. But soon after phase 1 of Gov. Greg Abbott's reopening plan, the numbers started to climb, and 14 days after phase 2, officials said they began skyrocketing.
Gov. Abbott's communications director said their medical team of doctors attribute the spike to two possible things.
"Memorial Day gatherings, as people were not social distancing, and two, we are starting to see these positive folks from protesting," he said.
What worries our leaders is the age factor this time around.
"In the last week or so, we've reported people who have died in their 30s for example, with no underlying medical conditions," said Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Some people believe not everyone is taking this seriously, while others feel there are too many scare-tactics surrounding this virus.
"People don't know the coronavirus is not gone, and they're treating it like its gone," said Ricky Williams.
"I think everyone is afraid and it is easy to prey on that," said Caroline Clarke. "This will play out like all other infectious diseases do. We just don't have a good recourse for this yet and this is the problem."
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Judge Lina Hidalgo issues dire warning about COVID-19
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