HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Wednesday the county is lowering its COVID-19 threat level to orange, citing a decrease in cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates.
Orange is the county's second-highest threat level, which signifies "that there is still an ongoing, uncontrolled level of COVID-19 transmission in Harris County."
At this level, the county recommends unvaccinated residents continue to wear masks, minimize contact with others, avoid any medium or large gatherings, and only visit permissible businesses that follow public health guidance.
“Over the past several weeks, we’ve seen an encouraging drop in the number of new COVID-19 cases and our hospital population,” said Judge Hidalgo. “This didn’t happen by coincidence - it happened because of our community's hard work to step up and increase our vaccination rates. That said, we’re not out of the woods. The decreases in our trends are slowing down while other communities are starting to see spikes, and as we learn to coexist with this virus over the long term, we can’t grow complacent. As the holidays begin to approach, we must stay vigilant to avoid another spike. The only way to do that is to get vaccinated.”
Back in August, Harris County increased the county's COVID threat level to red, the highest level, because the COVID positivity rate was rising at an alarming rate. During that time, the COVID positivity rate was at 15%. As of Wednesday, the rate has dropped to 6%.
To date, 9,119 people in Harris County have died from COVID-19 and more than 70,000 statewide.
Click here to better understand the county's threat level.
Though COVID cases are dropping in the Houston area, health experts warn this is not the time we let our guard down. Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist with Memorial Hermann said there is still a lot of uncertainty.
“We’re hoping that with all the new people getting vaccinated, with folks getting booster shots, with vaccines opening up to children, that this might be our last surge, but again, unexpected things can happen,” Dr. Yancey said.
Vaccine expert Dr. Peter Hotez said even though things are getting better, only 57 percent of eligible people are fully vaccinated.
“It means 43 percent is not so that’s still a lot of warm water for the hurricane to pass over. The warm water being the unvaccinated. The hurricane being, we still have this delta variant circulating," Hotez said.
He said reaching herd immunity will be easier in areas where people are getting the shot.
Where to get vaccinated in the Houston area?
There are several locations in the Houston area giving shots in arms to individuals as young as 5.
You can also receive a vaccine at the following locations: