HOUSTON – A stern warning came from Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Friday as she moved the county to the most serious level on the newly launched coronavirus threat scale.
Hidalgo said hospitals are on the verge of exceeding their intensive-care unit beds as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Houston area continues to rise.
“Today, we find ourselves careening toward a catastrophic and unsustainable situation,” Hidalgo said.
Hidalgo said the move to Level 1, or so-called “red alert,” on the county’s four-level threat scale means there is an uncontrolled spread of the virus.
The judge said that while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott removed her ability to create an enforceable stay-home order, she is pleading with people to follow these guidelines:
- Stay home except for essential reasons such as shopping for food and medicine.
- Avoid and cancel all gatherings.
- Essential workers should take precautions to reduce their exposure.
- Cancel non-essential travel.
- Cancel visits to nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
“If we don’t act now, we will be at the point of no return,” Hidalgo said.
Dr. Umair Shah, of Harris County Public Health, was equally strong in his description of the situation.
“Enough is enough,” Shah said.
Shah said people should wear their masks whenever they leave their homes and keep their distance from others. He also pointed out a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said pregnant women are more likely to require hospitalization if they contract COVID-19.
“I cannot stress enough the severity of this situation,” Shah said.
Since the four-level scale was launched by Hidalgo nearly two weeks, the county has been at Level 2.
Hidalgo’s announcement came just hours after Abbott ordered all bars to close at noon Friday and restaurants to reduce to 50% capacity starting Monday.
You can watch a replay of Hidalgo’s news conference below.