Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced Monday morning that the county’s COVID-19 threat level would again be lowered from red to orange, or “extreme caution.”
The last time the county was orange was in December, when cases of the omicron variant began to rise across the country.
“We [need] our leaders and our residents to continue to support additional measures to protect those who are not or are not partially vaccinated, “Jenkins tweeted Monday.
Last week, Dallas County reported 62 more COVID-19 deaths and 6,383 new coronavirus cases. in the previous week. These figures represent a decline in recent weeks, but are still high compared to pre-omicron levels of the virus.
According to state data, 73% of over-5s in Dallas County have at least one dose of the vaccine. Only 63% are fully vaccinated, according to the state.
The Jenkins Public Health Committee, a group of hospital leaders and other public health officials who informally advise the county judge, also recommended continued mask wearing in public places and in schools, social distancing in public places and widespread vaccination and booster distribution.
The color-coded threat level is largely symbolic and is a public information tool to inform residents about the current status of the virus spread. It has come under criticism from some Dallas County leaders, including JJ Koch, the only Republican on the county commissioner’s court.
“We have this body meeting in secret,” Koch said. “I do not question their competence, I question their transparency.”
Jenkins’ masking order – which has also been challenged by Koch in state courts – is still in force but has no sanctions for non-compliance. A lawsuit over the order between Jenkins and Gov. Greg Abbott is currently awaiting an appeal from the state Supreme Court.
The color-coded threat system was originally designed early in the pandemic, long before vaccines were developed or widely available. The ever-changing science of COVID-19 has meant that the guidelines for each color-coded level have also changed.
The county’s latest specific level for orange level sets out different guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or immunocompromised.
In general, those who are fully vaccinated have “the most opportunity to return to normal activities, but should continue to be careful when COVID-19 activity, especially the omicron variants, remains high in the community,” the county guide said. Those in the latter group are encouraged to continue to choose virtual events and masking in indoor and outdoor environments.
Read the entire guide, including a subdivision recommendation for joint activities, on the county’s website.
At a commissioner’s meeting last week, Dr. Philip Huang, the county’s public health director, said the level of threat could change, but continued to urge people to wear masks, be vaccinated and not change their behavior when the number of cases drops.
“I do not think there is a magic number,” Huang said. “Do not go back to normal and think we can relax. It is important to be vigilant during all this.”