Harris County unveils COVID19 threat level system as cases, hospitalizations rise

Local leaders on Thursday announced a new COVID-19 “public threat level” system.

Details were released during a press conference with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and local health officials, a day after Texas reported a record-high in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations.

MORE: Texas sees largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases

"Life as usual probably will not be returning anytime soon," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

But City and county officials worry with all the re-openings, some people are starting to live life as they knew it.

"This week the COVID-19 general population in the Harris County Hospital System was the highest it has ever been," Hidalgo said. "It was the highest on Monday and its gotten worse every day."

"If we want a decent fall so to speak a lot will be determined by what we do now and through the course of this summer," said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The local stay-at-home order is no more.

It's been replaced by a level threat system.

"This system is designed to break through the noise and help residents understand what the threat is and what action they should take," the county judge said.

Right now we are at a level 2 meaning minimize your contact with others.

Here's a breakdown of the public threat level system:

The Harris County COVID-19 Threat Level system advises four levels of transmission: Level 1 severe (red), Level 2 significant (orange), Level 3 moderate (yellow), and Level 4 minimal (green).

Along with the level of transmission are actions residents should follow: Stay home, (red); minimize all contacts (orange); stay vigilant (yellow); and resume normal contacts (green). 

Level 1: Stay Home
Level one signifies a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning outbreaks are present and worsening and that testing and contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded. At this level, residents take action to minimize contacts with others wherever possible and avoid leaving home except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine.  

Level 2: Minimize ALL Contacts (Current Level)
Level two signifies a significant and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning that there is ongoing transmission of the virus and that testing and contact tracing capacity is likely sufficient to meet demand. At this level, residents should minimize contact with others, avoiding any medium or large gatherings and only visiting permissible businesses that follow public health guidance. 

Level 3: Stay Vigilant
Level three signifies a moderate, but controlled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning a demonstrated reduction in transmission and the local healthcare system is within capacity. Residents should remain vigilant, but resume contact with others and resume leaving home.  

Level 4: Resume Normal Activity
Level four signifies a minimal and controlled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning new chains of transmission are limited and quickly broken or a vaccine and/or treatment has been developed and widely deployed. At this level, residents may resume normal contact with others unless sick. 

The big concern right now is hospital space.

It's not an issue now but as cases rise the fear is hospitals will become overburdened.

More than 15,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Harris County and Houston. Of those cases, just over 6,000 people have recovered and around 9,260 remain active.

The county’s "stay home" order expired at midnight, and it is still unclear if Judge Hidalgo will announce a new one.

In Texas, record numbers of hospitalizations and new cases have been reported this week.

Texas saw its largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases, with a total of 2,504 new cases on Wednesday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Texas surpassed 2,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients for the first time on Tuesday.

For a complete list of indicators, guidance, and related information read "Leading Harris County: Public Guidelines for a Healthy Community" on ReadyHarris.org.