Hidalgo will move Harris County to the highest threat level, ban meetings of more than 100 people

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo plans to move to the worst threat level on Friday, calling for a return to the home-stay conditions of March and April, as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise, three said county officials.

It will also ban outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people in unincorporated Harris County, and urged mayors to do the same in their cities, officials said. This would apply to scheduled in-person high school graduations.

However, Hidalgo lacks the authority to issue a mandatory stay-at-home order as he did in March, as Governor Greg Abbott took control of the state’s reopening in May. She has said that the governor reopened the state too quickly, leaving Harris County at risk of an uncontrolled outbreak that has now developed.

Hidalgo will announce the threat level downgrade at a press conference at 11 am.

Abbott on Friday morning ordered all bars in Texas to be closed again, starting at noon, in his latest effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The governor also said that restaurants will have to return to 50 percent of their capacity; They had been allowed to operate at 75 percent since June 12.

In addition, Abbott allowed local officials to limit outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, clearing the way for Hidalgo to do so.

The county judge on June 11 introduced a four-tier threat system to help residents more easily understand the severity of the pandemic here. Hidalgo initially placed the county on Level 2, the second most serious, which is defined by continuous transmission of the virus. He then warned that an increase in new cases could put the county on “the precipice of disaster.”

Since last week, the county has met four of the five criteria for moving to Level 1, described as an outbreak that is worsening and causing increased demand in healthcare facilities. These benchmarks include increasing seven-day trends in new cases and hospitalizations.

The Texas Medical Center reported Thursday that 100 percent of its basic ICU capacity was full for the first time during the pandemic, driven by a jump in COVID patients. The hospital may run out of emergency beds, temporary space for use in emergencies, before July 6, according to the models of the hospital system.

Harris County has a temporary field hospital outside the NRG Stadium that can be activated in several days, a Hidalgo spokesman said. In April, the county erected a $ 17 million facility, but closed the site when it was not used.

The Houston region has established COVID hospitalization records in 12 of the last 14 days, with a total of 2,416 patients on Thursday. According to the Houston Chronicle analysis, there have been 504 deaths in the region from the virus and more than 37,000 infected residents.

This story will be updated.

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