Judge Lina Hidalgo took the ultimate step within her authority Friday (June 26) and upgraded Harris County into a Level One Red threat level — a “severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19” that urges staying at home and taking strict safety precautions.
She also issued an advisory to prohibit gatherings of more than 100 people in unincorporated county areas and urged cities within the county — which includes Bellaire, West University and Houston — to adopt that prohibition.
Hidalgo’s announcement came shortly after Gov. Greg Abbott rolled back some reopening measures, closing all bars in Texas (and any business which derives more than 50 percent of its revenue from sales of alcohol) and reducing occupancy in restaurants from 75 to 50 percent.
Because local officials can’t issue orders superseding the governor’s, Hidalgo said Harris County residents would have to comply voluntarily with the recommendations that come with the Level One threat (see below), chief among them, the advice to stay-at-home except for essential trips for food, medications or essential work.
“Anything short of staying home is setting us up for failure,” she said. “Anything in-between is a gamble and an experiment on our own people…If we don’t act now, we will be in a crisis.”
- Stay home, unless you need to make trips to the grocery store for food and medicine
- Avoid and cancel all gatherings of any size
- Practice special precautions to prevent spread if you’re an essential worker.
- 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
Hidalgo urged Harris County residents to comply. ““Let’s get this right, let’s try this again, and let’s move forward. We know success will not happen overnight…Let’s be smart, let’s buckle down, let’s be tough because that’s what we are.”
Dr. Umair A. Shah of the Harris County Public Health Authority echoed Hidalgo’s urgency. He said because so much has reopened, “people think things are back to normal. I’m telling you from a health standpoint, life is far from normal. This pandemic is far from over.”