Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo moves COVID-19 threat level to red

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Saturday, June 27, 2020
Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo moves COVID-19 threat level to red
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WATCH: Hear Judge Lina Hidalgo's passionate message to Harris County residents about the severity of the current COVID-19 threat.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is increasing the COVID-19 threat level in the area to red, which means it's severe, and you should stay home.

Hidalgo made the announcement, two weeks after introducing the four-level, color-coded system designed to help provide the public with guidance on how to protect themselves.

"The harsh truth is that our current infection rate is on pace to overwhelm our hospitals in the very near future," Judge Hidalgo said. "We hope this serves as a wakeup call to everyone that the time to act is now."

Under the level one threat, you're urged to:

  • Stay home, unless you need to make trips to the grocery store for food and medicine
  • Avoid and cancel all gatherings of any size
  • All vulnerable individuals (65+ or with pre-existing health conditions) stay home
  • Self-quarantine for 14 days if in close and prolonged contact with someone who has tested positive with COVID-19
  • Wear face coverings to protect others
  • Avoid non-essential business and personal travel
  • Avoid public transportation where possible
  • Cancel visits to nursing homes, long term care facilities, and hospitals
  • Avoid and cancel all indoor and outdoor gatherings, including concerts, rodeos, large sporting events, etc. Schools and after-school activities for youth close, as directed by educational authorities

The level as of June 11 was orange, which meant the threat is significant, and you should minimize all contacts.

These are the four levels of the COVID-19 threat system for Harris County:
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 has a constant indicator dial at ReadyHarris.org.

Though she didn't give many details, Hidalgo said she would be issuing an advisory similar to the initial "Stay Home, Work Safe" order issued in the county in March, when COVID-19 - related shutdowns began.

Hidalgo doesn't have the authority to issue another order, but said the advisory would mirror one.

She continued to make a plea to the public to follow guidelines as well and help flatten the curve.

"Since when did we decide as a society that instead of saving a life and preventing the spread of the virus, we would treat human lives, the lives of our neighbors as collateral damage to be dealt with?" Hidalgo said.

FULL STORY: Bars must shut down at noon today, according to new order from Gov. Greg Abbott

The announcement comes on the same day that Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new order that the state would be taking a step back.

All bars and similar establishments that receive 51% or more of their gross receipts from alcohol revenue have been ordered to close. While customers won't be allowed to visit, those businesses can provide delivery and take-out services, which include beverage sales.

Beginning Monday, June 29, restaurants must reduce their capacity from 75% to 50%, though they can remain open for dine-in service.

Abbott also shut down river-rafting trips and banned outdoor gatherings of over 100 people unless local officials approve.

"At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars," he said in a news release. "The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health."

Abbott also said outdoor gatherings of over 100 people are prohibited unless local officials explicitly approve of them.

Hidalgo said gatherings of that size are banned in unincorporated Harris County, effective immediately.

RELATED: Where are we on COVID-19 fight? Here's what experts say

Should it be needed, the judge said Harris County is ready to deploy a medical shelter at NRG to serve as a backup to the hospital system if it becomes overwhelmed by new cases beyond the existing surge capacity that remains. The costs of the medical shelter are expected to be 100% reimbursed by federal funds, either from FEMA or CARES Act funding already allocated to the county.

MORE: Coronavirus cases, deaths and recoveries county-by-county around Houston