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‘We’re very close.': Why Harris County judge says she’s not yet ready to lower COVID-19 threat level but could do so soon

HOUSTON – As key metrics like the infection rate and ICU hospitalizations trend downward for the first time in months, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo says it’s not yet time to reduce the county’s COVID-19 threat level.

At present, Harris County is at the highest threat level: Red level 1.

Hidalgo told KPRC 2 Monday that scaling back to orange on the COVID-19 Threat Level system is on the horizon.

Harris County COVID-19 Threat Level System
Harris County COVID-19 Threat Level System (KPRC)

“We can go to orange in a matter of days, you know, a week or two. We could if we keep at it. If those trends continue going down, but it’s up to all of us. We’re not quite there, we’re very close,” she said.

Hidalgo pointed to positive signs like the hospitalizations being down along with the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in ICUs.

“The other indicator that we have for going to orange is having the percentage of the ICU that is COVID positive being below 15% and we crossed that just today,” she said.

But other numbers are not where they need to be, Hidalgo said.

“The positivity rate in Harris County is around 8% we needed to be at five. The other one is the case counts. We’re seeing an average of about 450 cases a day or so we need that to be at 400,” she said.

Doctors agree that the overall story of Harris County’s current coronavirus data is positive but warn residents to not let up on health and safety practices.

“The sole reason we’re doing better is because we are masking, distancing, managing behavior, avoiding aggregation of people in small spaces, avoiding public gatherings, all that good and hard work it’s really paid off and that’s why we have control of the virus right now and that needs to continue,” said Dr. James McDeavitt of the Baylor College of Medicine.

Experts warn the numbers could spike up again in the next weeks with possible new cases from Labor Day and students returning to in-person learning.

Monday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also said the area is headed on the right track. Turner said the city’s positivity rate is at 6.1% and going down. Although the positivity rate is decreasing, it has not reached the 5% and below goal.


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