HOUSTON (KIAH) — Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo called for an emergency meeting of commissioners court on Tuesday morning as COVID-19 cases continue to surge locally.

The meeting was to officially raise the county’s COVID-19 threat limit, as well as approve the purchase of up to 65,000 rapid antigen COVID-19 test kits that cost over $1.8 million and a emergency agreement with the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council for staffing that will cost up to $40 million.

On Monday, Judge Hidalgo announced that Harris County raised its COVID-19 threat level back to red, the highest level as the county reports rising cases in the past week. She also discussed the county’s effort to provide local school districts with COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

This comes as new cases have continued to skyrocket due to the omicron variant. The positivity rate in Harris County is 34.6%, with over 1,050 new cases per 100,000 people. About 17.3% of those hospitalized in the county are in intensive care, well above the average of 15%.

Level 1 is described as “severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19” in the county and public health facilities are being “strained or exceeded.” It calls for unvaccinated residents to minimize contact with others and avoid leaving home except for essential needs.

It asks both unvaccinated and vaccinated residents to wear masks indoors and avoid large gatherings.

“We’re finding ourselves again at a point in this pandemic where hospital staff are being stretched way too thin,” said Hidalgo.  “We owe it to our nurses, doctors, and teachers to take steps to protect ourselves and give them a break. If you have been on the fence about getting vaccinated, now is the time to roll up your sleeve. We are in the midst of a COVID-19 tsunami and our best defense are vaccines and booster shots. We’ve been here before, but this time we have more tools available and a better understanding of this virus.” 

The COVID-19 vaccine and vaccine booster continues to be available at no charge for all Harris County residents. To find out more information, locations and hours, click here.

For a complete list of indicators, guidance, and related information visit ReadyHarris.org.