“This is not a drill”

Fort Bend and Harris counties at highest COVID-19 risk levels

Sandra Sadek | Times Editorial Intern
Posted 7/15/20

Fort Bend County Judge KP George has declared the county is now in the red “high-risk” category as of July 14 as COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the state.

In a morning …

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“This is not a drill”

Fort Bend and Harris counties at highest COVID-19 risk levels

Posted

Fort Bend County Judge KP George has declared the county is now in the red “high-risk” category as of July 14 as COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the state.

In a morning press conference alongside Fort Bend County Health and Human Services Director Jacquelyn Johnson-Minter and Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Coordinator Mark Flathouse, George said the exponential increase in positive case numbers has is cause for concern. However, the judge is still not planning a second shutdown.

“That's the last thing I wanted to do. That's why I'm asking our citizens to behave a certain way because I have full confidence in Fort Bend County residents,” George said. “When we had the shutdown, our citizens behaved very well, so I'm confident they will follow through on it, but I cannot guarantee it. If there is a shutdown come from government, we have to follow through on it.”

The red risk level means the community has a high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19. Under this category, the county asks that residents minimize contact with others, wherever possible and avoid leaving home except for essential needs. Social distancing, wearing face coverings and practicing good hand hygiene is also necessary, the judge reminded.

Harris County has also moved to its highest risk level. Level 1 signifies a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in the county. As of July 13, there are currently 17,037 confirmed cases of which 6,161 are active. There are 194 reported deaths. Waller County has not issued any high-risk level alert and reports 257 confirmed cases as of July 14. Zero fatalities have been reported.

The Texas Medical Center has also been reporting an increase in cases. On July 14, TMC reported an average 1,776 new cases per day, four times the number of cases observed during the peak in April.

As of July 14, Fort Bend County reports 5,211 confirmed cases and 65 deaths. The Texas Department of Health Services reports 264,313 statewide cases with 3,222 fatalities as of July 14.

“Since early March, we've responded in a lot of ways that have been helpful. And we got to witness the decrease of disease in our community. But we also began to let our guard down,” Johnson-Minter said. “And we witness the consequences of that. We had a false sense of security, and it resulted in some of the numbers that Judge George has given us earlier.”

The Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management has been activated since March, said Flathouse, whose office has been working around the clock as the situation continues to change.

“Moving to red is very important to us because it shows that we need to listen, and we need to adapt and adjust. And we need to make sure that this whole operation and everything that we're doing is very fluid,” Flathouse said.

The announcement of the red alert comes as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott echoed similar sentiments of the situation worsening if people do not follow mask orders, which may lead to another economic lockdown.

“I made clear that I made this tough decision for one reason: It was our last best effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we do not slow the spread of COVID-19 … the next step would have to be a lockdown,” Abbott said in a press conference on July 10.

As the number of cases continues to increase and flood hospitals, Judge George said the county has started looking for alternate sites to hold diagnosed individuals needing medical attention. But no exact location was given.

All three emphasized the importance of adapting to the virus as the situation continues to evolve.

“We will prevail, there is no question about it,” George said.

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