Harris County Judge Hidalgo lowers COVID-19 threat level to orange

The lowered threat level comes just days ahead of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's opening after 2 years away.

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Thursday, February 24, 2022
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A grim picture is being painted with the omicron-driven COVID-19 surge in southeast Texas, but despite the heightened threat level in the area, some events, mainly those outdoor, will go on as scheduled.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Thursday that she is lowering the county's COVID-19 threat level from red, the most severe, to orange, which means there is still a significant and uncontrolled level of the virus in the area.

Under the county's system, the orange level means there is still ongoing transmission of the virus, but lowering the threat marks some improvement as COVID-19 positive cases and ICU populations decrease.

Hidalgo had raised the level to red as the omicron wave hit Harris County hard in January.

"The omicron wave hit Harris County very, very hard," said Hidalgo. "In fact, only now have our hospitalization rates dropped to levels that don't immediately threaten the capacity of our healthcare system."

A month and a half later, while we appear to be moving in the right direction, "there are no guarantees we won't see another wave in the future," the county judge added.

At the county's orange level, unvaccinated people are advised to continue to wear a mask, physically distance and avoid medium and large gatherings.

Vaccinated people should follow the latest public heath guidance on whether to mask up while indoors in public places, in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.

The lowered threat level comes just as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is set to return after two years away due to the pandemic.

This year, the rodeo, which draws millions of people over the course of the roughly three-week event, opens on Feb. 28 and runs through March 20.

Prior to the City of Houston and the Houston Health Department ordering the rodeo to shut down on March 11, 2020, attendance totaled 851,822.

With the return of the rodeo, Harris County Public Health is urging people to wear face coverings because the omicron variant still exists in the community.

If you're interested in getting a COVID vaccination or a booster shot, visit the Harris County Public Health website.

SEE MORE: ABC13 town hall to explore omicron variant's impact in Houston area

City officials are hoping new mega testing sites will help with the long wait times and delayed results.

The video above is from a previous report, when Judge Hidalgo raised the threat level to severe.