Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has lowered the COVID-19 threat level to a Level 2, denoted by the color orange. (Courtesy Harris County Public Health)
For the first time since Jan. 10, Harris County leaders lowered the COVID-19 emergency status on Feb. 24 from the highest threat to a Level 2, denoted by the color orange.
“The omicron wave hit Harris County very, very hard,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a Feb. 24 news release. “Only now have our hospitalization rates dropped to levels that don’t immediately threaten the capacity of our health care system.”
The orange Level 2 is the second-highest threat status for the county’s four levels of emergency indicators. Prior to Feb. 24, the county stood at a Level 1 status, indicated by the color red.
County leaders monitor the number of COVID-19 cases in the county as well as the capacity of hospitals before changing the threat level, Hidalgo said during the Harris County Commissioners Court meeting Feb. 22.
As of Feb. 24, Harris County and the city of Houston combined have about 58,000 active COVID-19 cases, according to www.readyharris.org. Hospital ICU beds are at 14.65% capacity, and the county’s 14-day average positivity test rate is 10%. As of Jan. 10, when the emergency status was raised to red, the county’s COVID-19-positive ICU cases came out to 18.1%, while the positivity rate stood at 35%.
While at an orange status, county leaders urge vaccinated residents to minimize face-to-face contact and avoid medium to large gatherings, according to the Harris County COVID-19 Data Hub. Unvaccinated residents should also skip medium to large gatherings and are asked to avoid in-person contact and wear masks, officials said.
“I continue to urge folks to get vaccinated,” Hidalgo said. “Doing so will allow us to deal with COVID-19 as a manageable risk rather than an emergency that unnecessarily threatens lives and the capacity of our entire health care system.”