FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas — Fort Bend County Judge KP George on Wednesday announced he is raising the county's risk level from orange (moderate/significant community risk) to red (high community risk).
George said infections are rapidly rising, and the county wants the power to protect its people.
The announcement was made during an emergency meeting called in Fort Bend County to talk about how to handle rising COVID-19 cases. George also said a mask mandate was being re-issued for county buildings, including schools. That has school districts caught in the middle.
Fort Bend ISD says they're consulting their legal team on how to proceed, but for now, will keep policy of strongly encouraging face coverings in schools, but won't require them.
Health screenings will also resume at county facilities.
He also announced the county filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order that prohibits local governments from implementing mask mandates.
Wednesday evening, George said the TRO was approved by a district court.
Late Wednesday night, the Fort Bend Independent School District sent out a release saying face coverings were "highly encouraged" whether students, staff and visitors are vaccinated or not. The district said it was monitoring the results of the TRO and would make changes if necessary.
“We are experiencing a health crisis emergency and I am concerned about the health and safety of our children and the hardworking employees in Fort Bend County,” George said in a statement. “How do you strip local government of the power to protect public safety? You can not play with people’s lives, and I feel that the governor’s executive order causes harm and risks the health and safety of our public employees and their families, many of whom have school-age children.”
Watch the full news conference in the video below:
Last week, George, Dr. Peter Hotez and other Fort Bend County leaders warned the public about increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations and urged more people to get vaccinated.
On Aug. 3, the county’s COVID threat level was officially raised from “moderate” to “significant” as numbers were increasing across the country.
George said since the COVID-19 Delta variant was discovered in the county last month, the number of new cases has been doubling every week.
George called on all county staff to wear masks while indoors.
Hotez said this COVID spike is different from the previous ones.
“Last year at this time, we were at the start of a horrific surge that went from southwest Texas all the way east to Florida, and all the states in between,” Hotez said. “It looks like once again, COVID-19 is back in the south.”
As of Aug. 3, about 60 percent of eligible residents in Fort Bend County were fully vaccinated.
Here's a look at the COVID-19 numbers in Fort Bend County. Use the arrows at the bottom to cycle between different numbers: