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Harris County Releases Emergency Broadcast Alert Urging People To Stay Home As COVID-19 Continues To Spread

The alert drives home the severity of the outbreak in the region, which has become a national hotspot for COVID-19 after keeping the virus at bay for weeks.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, left, tours Harris County Public Health Department alongside local Health Authority Dr. Umair Shah, on Wednesday, May 13.

Updated 1:50 p.m. CT

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released an emergency broadcast urging people to stay home in response to the COVID-19 crisis, as the county remains at its highest alert level amid the pandemic.

A script of the message, broadcast by Houston Public Media and other local broadcasters in both Spanish and English, reads:

STAY HOME. Harris County's COVID-19 threat remains at LEVEL 1 (RED) SEVERE until further notice. The virus is spreading rapidly across Harris County and local hospitals are reaching capacity. Protect yourself and your family by staying at home except for essential activities, wear required face covering, and cancel gatherings. Visit readyharris.org for updates.

Hear the alert in both English and Spanish below:

Local broadcast media outlets obtained the message from Hidalgo’s office on Monday afternoon. The message does not come with additional enforcement, and Hidalgo was not issuing a new county order as of Monday, according to a spokesperson.

Hidalgo has asked the governor to allow enforcement power to local county orders, but the county has yet to receive clarification on whether it could enforce such a stay-at-home order at this time.

"We have to stop pretending that filling up our hospitals is a morally appropriate or sound public health approach to the COVID-19 pandemic,” read a statement from Hidalgo. “The good news is that as our community has demonstrated before, we are not powerless against this crisis and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to save lives and create the conditions to open our economy sustainably. Over the long term, we must find ways to safely coexist with this virus, but right now we are an emergency situation and we need to treat it as such."

The alert drives home the severity of the outbreak in the region, which has become a national hotspot for COVID-19 after keeping the virus at bay for weeks. Over the last week, the greater Houston area averaged 1,776 cases per day, which is more than four times the number during the peak in April, according to the Texas Medical Center. ICU bed configuration and staffing was at full “Phase 1” capacity as of Sunday, and the medical center has had to add additional intensive care capacity to handle the overflow.

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Paul DeBenedetto

Senior Producer

Paul DeBenedetto is Houston Public Media's senior web producer, writing and editing stories for HoustonPublicMedia.org. Before joining the station, Paul worked as a web producer for the Houston Chronicle, and his work has appeared online and in print for the Chronicle, the New York Times, DNAinfo New York, and other...

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