Harris County at COVID-19 severe alert with 8 days until Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- We're less than two weeks away from the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and as far as everyone knows, it's still a go despite the growing threat of COVID-19.

The 20-day event begins next week with pre-rodeo events kicking off with the World's Championship Bar-B-Que Contest.

SEE RELATED STORY: RodeoHouston announces new BBQ contest category

RodeoHouston draws hundreds of thousands of people every year for the concerts, good food, and the carnival. But, throughout the crowd will still be the threat of COVID.

The large event raises concerns following the county's COVID-19 threat level to red "severe," the highest placement on the scale.

SEE RELATED: Harris County's omicron-driven COVID-19 surge pushes threat level back up to 'severe'

On, Jan. 10, county Judge Lina Hidalgo raised the level saying, "For the sake of our hospitals and for the sake of our workforce, we must sound the alarm once again."

Hidalgo said the decision came after rising virus cases in southeast Texas due to the highly-contagious omicron variant, which has put strains on local hospitals.

At the time, Hidalgo said a COVID-19 "tsunami" drove her to raise the level to severe.

So, will this deter patrons from visiting the rodeo this year?

"Not really," said Grant Goodman. "We've been at a red level for a while and it hasn't really impacted my daily life too much at this point. When the pandemic first started, for sure, but at this point, I think everyone's just kind of tired of it."

Gabby Parras said she's still undecided.

"It's COVID, and so many people are going to be out there. So, definitely undecided at the moment," she said.

One Houstonian has her decision made. Annie Gonzalez said after going to the rodeo in previous years, she's not going this time around.

"No, there's too many people there. I do everything early in the morning. So, thank the Lord that we haven't got sick," Gonzalez said.

ABC13 spoke to Dr. James McDeavitt with Baylor College of Medicine who said he is all for people going to the rodeo and having fun, but to do so cautiously.

"If you look at the prevalence of the virus in the community today, and compare it to that low point we had between delta and omicron, we're still about five to six times where we were. So, there's still a lot of virus," McDeavitt said.

McDeavitt said we're headed in the right direction right now with COVID cases, hospitalizations and wastewater monitoring all going down.

Still, he said individuals are likely to run into someone in the community and at the rodeo who is shedding COVID-19.

"If you are, in this high prevalence environment, I would be a little hesitant to go out, actively mingle in the community, and risk bringing that virus back to somebody that may have a hard time dealing with it. I would look carefully at the people around you," McDeavitt said.

He adds that getting vaccinated and boosted is the best defense against the virus. He said if you're going into a crowded indoor environment, such as a concert where you're going to be shoulder to shoulder, to mask up.

"You should be double masked, in a surgical mask, or even N95 or KN95. I think with appropriate precautions, we can go back to do a lot of things we're used to doing, but do those safely by using a little bit of common sense," he said.

ABC13 reached out to Hidalgo's office to see if the threat level would change before the rodeo. We're told they will have more information on the COVID meter level in a couple of days.
Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.