Judge: Harris County needs a few more days before making a decision on lifting stay-at-home orders

HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the county has not hit the peak for COVID-19 cases. While the county is working to resume normal activities, she said the county needs more time before easing any restrictions.

“The bottom line is we need more data," Hidalgo said at a press conference Friday. “We need a few more days to see which way the curve is headed. We cannot flip a coin and risk thousands of lives.”

Harris County announced 40 new coronavirus cases and two new deaths, bringing the county’s total to 1,850 cases and 34 deaths. (These figures only count cases in incorporated Harris County.)

Hidalgo said the county won’t choose an arbitrary date. The county needs to see a consistent downward trend of new cases before the county can make any changes.

“We have to be guided by the information as we always have been,” she said. "This is not a gut decision. This is time for data-driven, science-driven decisions. That is what we will be doing.”

Hidalgo urged residents to continue to follow the stay home orders.

“If we start going out, we will reverse the progress we made, and we will be back where were three weeks ago,” Hidalgo said.

Data shows a slowdown of new COVID-19 cases throughout the county and that social distancing efforts are curbing the spread, Hildalgo noted.

“The curve is starting to flatten, and we are doing better than every big city in America,” she said. “And that is all because of you at home.”

Easing restrictions

In order to restart the local economy and get people back to work, a robust coronavirus testing infrastructure must be in place, Hidalgo said. Residents need access to universal and quick testing.

Harris County and its health partners are shortening the time span to get COVID-19 results, Hidalgo said. County testing sites are returning results within 48 hours, while the new Walgreens sites will deliver results in 24 hours.

Testing will need to be readily available for high-risk populations such as people with COVID-19 symptoms, people who work in close contact and those who live in close quarters such as nursing homes and homeless shelters.

The county also needs to provide more testing within communities, Hidalgo said. Harris County runs two testing sites, located on opposite sides of the county, and a mobile testing site.

“We are getting there little by little,” Hidalgo said.

Harris County is expanding the criteria to be tested to include anyone who has reason to believe they have been exposed to COVID-19. Hidalgo said testing is not for those who are curious if they have the virus or those who were sick but have recovered.

“This is for those who are concerned about an active infection,” Hidalgo said.

For more information, visit the Harris County coronavirus dashboard.

Here is the full press conference:

WATCH LIVE: Harris County Judge discusses coronavirus response, new testing criteria MORE: https://www.click2houston.com/news/local/2020/04/17/watch-live-harris-county-judge-discusses-coronavirus-response-new-testing-criteria/

Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Friday, April 17, 2020

About the Author: