Harris County's COVID-19 threat level remains red before start of Houston Rodeo

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston Rodeo will return to county grounds within just a few days. Although, the county's COVID-19 threat meter encourages unvaccinated people to remain home.

On Monday, SkyEye captured workers assembling rides on the NRG grounds ahead of the Houston Rodeo. It was a sight that Houstonians haven't seen for two years.

"It was a little disheartening because you're looking forward to particular rides," Corey Grant said. "Looking forward to particular experiences. I love funnel cake, as you may be able to tell."

"There's lots of food," Lydia Sobhi said. "It's fun just to take your friends and family to go and stuff like that."

But there are other visuals that might be new for some fair goers this year. In addition to rides, hand sanitizer stations are starting to roll out.

"It closed down for a good reason," Natalia Romero said. "I understand. I'm glad to see the safety precautions being put in place."

"We are just days away from welcoming everyone back to the Rodeo. In celebration of our 90th anniversary, we're kicking off with our World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest next week. We have been working closely with medical experts and local health officials, who advocate for us to move forward. We recommend that all guests take health precautions and follow the CDC's health and safety guidelines. Anyone, including employees, volunteers, guests, and exhibitors/competitors who are feeling ill or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or live with someone who has COVID, should stay home," a Houston Rodeo spokesperson said, regarding the current COVID situation. "We look forward to welcoming the community back to one of the city's most cherished annual events."

The county's COVID meter is in the red, encouraging unvaccinated people to stay home. However, the situation is improving.

The Houston area COVID cases have fallen daily. From more than 13,000 cases five weeks ago to about 2,300 now.

Daily hospitalizations have been cut in half, going from close to 500 to about 210. Last week, Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Department told ABC13 community spread will be much better by the time the rodeo returns.

"I think that the worst part will be over for us, locally, by March," Persse said.

Still, the rodeo is taking steps to keep people safe. In addition to sanitizer stations, you'll see more hand washing signs. They're also going to clean high-contact areas. If you usually bring cash, you should bring something else, as many vendors will be cashless. These are measures Houstonians hope will keep them safe when they return to the rodeo.

"We'll be safe," Grant said. "We'll be mindful of other people and if it's too hectic or too busy, maybe we'll go home or find something else to do around the area."

We reached out to Judge Lina Hidalgo's office, and the county health department to find out if the threat meter could be lowered prior to the rodeo. However, no one was available for an interview.

For more on the rodeo's latest health and safety protocols, visit the rodeo's website.

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