Houston-area officials raise COVID-19 threat level, urge testing before holiday gatherings
Harris County, the most populous county in Texas, increased its COVID-19 threat level on Monday.
County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced that the county of well over 4 million people would be moved to a Level 2 threat category as a result of the omicron variant. Harris County is governed by the Commissioners Court, and the county judge is the head of that body.
The level 2 designation “signifies a significant and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County” and means that “unvaccinated residents should minimize contacts with others, avoid any medium or large gatherings, and only visit permissible businesses that follow public health guidance,” according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Hidalgo said her decision was “because of rapid increases in cases & positivity rate” and “explosive growth of Omicron.”
NEW: I’m raising our COVID19 Threat Level to Level 2: Orange, because of rapid increases in cases & positivity rate. Due to explosive growth of Omicron, everyone eligible should get their booster, mask & get tested before gatherings. Unvaccinated ppl should minimize all contacts.
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) December 20, 2021
Harris County, which is home to Houston, currently has over 12,500 active COVID-19 cases, while nearly 59 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
The decision comes as other local officials across the country attempt combat increases in COVID-19 infections, either by expanding vaccines and testing or reimplementing pandemic-related safety protocols.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced Monday that she would reinstate an indoor mask mandate on Tuesday to remain in place until Jan. 31. The decision came just over a month after mask requirements in D.C. were lifted.
At the same time, Bowser also expanded a vaccine mandate for city employees. That policy will now require that all D.C. government employees and contractors be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 without the option to test out of the mandate.