Harris County now under 'red' COVID threat level, Houston Marathon to go on

On Monday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo raised the county’s COVID-19 threat level to ‘red’, the most severe level possible.

"We are in the midst of another COVID-19 tsunami," said Hidalgo. "We’re at red unfortunately because of a lack of action among those who are refusing to get vaccinated. They’re ending up in our hospitals."

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Throughout the last couple of weeks, long lines have been noticeable across Houston for COVID-19 tests. Recently, shelves at some pharmacies have also been short of certain cold/flu medications.

The current COVID-19 positivity rate in Houston is 38%.

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"In two years, the city’s positivity rate has not ever even been close to 38 percent," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

"Right now, we see an increase in patients at doctor’s offices and at hospitals," said Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesperson from the Houston Health Department.

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Houston Methodist reported having 812 COVID patients at their area hospitals Monday. In addition, roughly 1,156 employees out of 27,000 have tested positive.

"The number of patients is causing some stress to our organization, but we are managing all our COVID and non-COVID patients," said Gale Smith, a PR Manager from Houston Methodist. "As the surge continues, we continue to monitor our beds and adjust each day, hospital by hospital."

This weekend, more than 30,000 runners are expected to run through downtown for the Houston Marathon. According to event planners, and Judge Hidalgo, the marathon is expected to go on as planned.

"We expected [the county’s threat level] to get to level red," said Dr. Lars Thestrup, the Medical Director for the Houston Marathon. "We feel we’re prepared to have this marathon safely."

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"The Houston Marathon Committee is taking all appropriate and necessary precautions to host a safe and successful event this coming weekend," said a Houston Marathon spokesperson. "The event is an outdoor activity, which we believe is a safe environment for participants who wish to engage with us over race weekend. We have also added measures to allow for more space to keep runners distanced in heavy traffic flow situations. We continue to have the support of our medical director and city officials to proceed as planned and look forward to hosting our runners, spectators, and volunteers for the 50th Anniversary of the Chevron Houston Marathon."

In late February and much of March, the highly anticipated Houston Rodeo is scheduled to take place. The rodeo hopes to return for the first time since the pandemic started.

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"It’s still well over a month away, the start of the rodeo," said Hidalgo. "We’ll see if the cases, especially the hospitalizations are trending down."