HARRIS COUNTY - Harris County released its Roadmap to Reopen Schools on Wednesday as COVID-19 cases in the county reach more than 87,000.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo says the Roadmap to Reopen Schools spells out when it will be safe to for schools to reopen and what reopening will look like when that time comes.
"COVID continues to spread through our community at an unacceptable level by any indicator," said Hidalgo. "We are far worse today than we were when schools were first shuttered by the state back in April."
Part of the new Roadmap to Reopen is a threat level system similar to the COVID-19 Threat Level System announced by Hidalgo in the past.
"It's currently not safe and it won't be safe anytime in the near future to open schools for in-person instruction," said Hidalgo.
While the state removed the authority of local officials to close schools for in-person instruction, Hidalgo says the county should offer data-driven recommendations.
"Tying the school reopenings to our threat level indicators takes out the politics and focuses on the data," said Hidalgo.
Harris County's COVID-19 Threat Level System is currently Red-Level 1: Severe Uncontrolled Community Transmission.
"The countdown to the first day of school in person is like a ticking time bomb unless we do this right," said Hidalgo.
To help guide a safe return to in-person instruction, the roadmap provides a color-coded system similar to the county’s COVID-19 Threat Level System. The code uses the following levels:
• Red: All schools should be closed to in-person instruction and activities.
• Orange: School districts following a plan approved by Harris County Public Health may consider in-person instruction and activities for certain priority populations while not exceeding 25% capacity or 500 students, whichever is lower, in buildings or rooms, so long as schools can maintain cohorting practices.
• Yellow: School districts following a plan approved by Harris County Public Health may consider in-person instruction and activities while not exceeding 50% capacity or 1,000 students, whichever is lower, in buildings or rooms, so long as schools can maintain cohorting practices.
• Green: School districts following a plan approved by Harris County Public Health may resume in-person instruction at their usual capacity.
Texas Senator Paul Bettencourt and Texas Senator Brandon Creighton voiced their disagreement with Hidalgo's plan.
"We are winning the battle against COVID-19,” said Senator Creighton. “The single greatest threat to the employment of a single mom is to keep schools closed. Also, our kids benefit from being back in school, not just for quality education but also for nutrition and support. With COVID-19 having a 99% survival rate and millions of Texans depending upon employment and keeping their kids learning, we need to open schools on time with appropriate safeguards.”
“Judge Hidalgo says to let science be science but ignores the CDC guidelines urging schools to reopen,” said Senator Bettencourt. “She needs to use numbers that are real numbers like the TMC data above which show COVID-19 hospitalizations are way down. Hospitalizations should be the key statistic for any plan. Mathematically, I don’t see how Hidalgo’s plan would let in-classroom instruction happen until 2021.”