HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is instituting a four-level, color-coded COVID-19 threat level assessment beginning today.
The announcement follows the expiration of her "Stay Home, Work Safe" order that expired on Wednesday.
Governor Greg Abbott's phased opening of the State of Texas supersedes any local orders. For the past few weeks, local stay home orders were all but impossible to enforce.
However, with hospital admissions for COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, the new public threat level assessment is designed to help provide the public with guidance on how to protect themselves.
There are four levels:
Level 1 - Severe (red) Stay Home
Level 2 - Significant (orange) Minimize All Contacts
Level 3 - Moderate (yellow) Stay Vigilant
Level 4 - Minimal (green) Resume Normal Contacts
The county will have a constant indicator dial at ReadyHarris.org, and the current level as of today is orange.
"We all want to get back to work, see our friends, hug our family, go out to eat, and resume our livelihoods without limitations, but we still have a long road ahead of us to end this epidemic," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. "We owe it to our residents to make sure we're providing clear, consistent, and data-based information to keep them as healthy and safe as possible."
Hidalgo was joined at the news conference by Mayor Sylvester Turner, who echoed her sentiments.
The rise in COVID-19 case as restrictions are eased is something public health officials and the Texas Medical Center professionals have talked about for months.
Dr. Umair Shah, Executive Director of the Harris County Public Health Dept., as well as Dr. David Persse, the Health Authority at the Houston Health Department, also attended the news conference.
Texas set a new record Wednesday with more than 2,500 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in a single day.
According to the Texas Medical Center, current modeling shows the TMC's ICU capacity could be exceeded in five weeks.
Harris County and the city of Houston have a combined 9,261 confirmed, active COVID-19 cases.
It's important to note testing has expanded in Harris County. Testing sites in Pasadena and Cypress are able to test 750 people a day, and there are four mobile testing sites.
It's been almost three weeks since Gov. Abbott allowed bars to open at limited capacity, increased restaurant dining capacity to 50 percent, and allowed gyms to reopen.
The county has seen an increase in people being tested as well, so that plays some role in the increasing cases, though experts say the trajectory is clearly reflective of the reopening of the state, as well as Memorial Day activities by many Texans.
"We're starting to see a rise in the number of cases. Now you could argue that's because we're testing more and getting better at this sort of stuff. But the fact that it is being paralleled by an increasing number of hospitalizations and Intensive Care Unit admissions, that's not a good sign. It means that this thing is for real," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.