Fort Bend County lowers COVID-19 risk level to green, encourages residents to stay vigilant

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas -- Fort Bend County Judge KP George has lowered the COVID-19 risk level for the county from yellow, or a moderate community risk, to green, or minimum community risk. This news comes from a press conference held March 21.

Changing the risk level to green means that the possibility of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is minimal and controlled and that new chains of transmission are rare, according to the Fort Bend County coronavirus website.

This risk level represents the "new normal," according to the website. It indicates residents may now attend public and private gatherings more freely, use public transportation, visit vulnerable populations if practicing good hygienic and social distancing, and resume nonessential business and private travel if avoiding other states and countries where widespread transmission may still occur.

George said he will continue to inform Fort Bend County citizens of COVID-19 updates because the threat has not totally disappeared.

"I want to be very clear, COVID is still here," George said. "COVID is not 100% gone. And we will continue to inform you on what is happening. I've always said this: I am all about transparency and communication with our public. So any changes happening in the threat level, good or bad, it is my job to let you know."

According to George, Fort Bend County continues to be one of the most vaccinated counties in Texas per capita-a great feat considering it is the tenth-largest county in Texas with 900,000 people, he said.

"This is a combined effort from our medical community, our hospital system, our clinics and all our medical partners," George said. "I just want to make sure to acknowledge they all played a major role in accomplishing this goal to vaccinate the most people in Fort Bend County."

Of the county's residents age 5 and older, 87% have had at least one shot, and 78% of this group are fully vaccinated, according to George. He also said 99% of residents 65 and older have at least received one shot, and 97% of this group is fully vaccinated.

Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson-Minter, director of Fort Bend County Health and Human Services, shared George's caution: Although the threat has been minimized, it does not mean there is no risk to the county's most vulnerable residents.

"As discussed previously, the new guidance does not eliminate the need to protect our populations who are at higher risk for poorer outcomes," she said. "We are not yet able to provide protection to our youngest citizens, and although it appears to be less, when we look at other respiratory viruses, we know that coronavirus has had a greater impact."

Johnson-Minter said her department aligned its metrics with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to inform the decision to lower the risk level. According to the CDC, a community has the designation of minimal risk when there are fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 people in a seven-day average, fewer than 10 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people in a seven-day average, and fewer than 10% of staffed inpatient beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients in a seven-day average.

According to the county's COVID-19 cases dashboard, as of March 21, Fort Bend County has a seven-day average of 19 active cases per 100,000 residents, 3.6 hospital admissions per 100,000 residents and 2.7% of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. Johnson-Minter said local data was scrubbed for accuracy.

The county still encourages the use of personal protective measures, such as face coverings, physical distancing and frequent hand-washing, for certain activities, such as going shopping, visiting movie theaters, attending religious services or funerals, and visiting museums or libraries.

This article comes from our ABC13 partners at Community Impact Newspapers.