Fort Bend County Updated COVID-19 Health Guidance for the Public
During an outbreak, the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may vary from very high to relatively lower risk. The level of risk depends in part on the environment, type of activity performed, and the potential for close contact (within 6 feet of another person) for a repeated or extended period. To help Residents determine appropriate precautions, Fort Bend County has adopted four color levels to characterize the different risk exposure levels, consisting of high, moderate low and new normal.
July 13, 2020
While daily activities are quickly scaling back up to status quo levels, we are entering an entirely different environment that places novel responsibilities upon each of us. Positive cases in our County and Region are increasing at alarming rates. Our hospital systems are preparing for additional capacity as the Texas Medical Center in Houston enact their surge plans. Regional demand on COVID-19 testing has grown exponentially due to uncontrolled community spread of this virus.
Please find attached a document designed to offer guidance to our communities as we navigate the new reality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such personal accountability remains one of our most effective tools in the ongoing siege against the novel coronavirus. At this time, we are in the red “high risk” category. This is the highest possible level of risk.
Local medical professionals compiled the enclosed guidance in pursuit of their lone goal of containment of COVID-19 in Fort Bend County. Please read the recommendations not as infringement upon personal liberty, but as acts of solidarity that will protect the livelihoods of your loved ones, neighbors, and the local health professionals who endeavor each day to care for us. By adhering to these suggestions, we can solidify the progress we have made thus far and hasten our return to the life that we love – one of safety, wellbeing, community, and camaraderie.
Fort Bend County Judge
- Assume personal responsibility – Public health guidance cannot anticipate every unique situation. Residents should take responsibility, stay informed, take actions based on common sense, and follow the guidance offered by health care experts.
- Do an honest self-assessment – In addition, all individuals are encouraged to perform an honest self- assessment before engaging in activities outside of the home. This assessment should include asking two questions:
- Am I healthy enough to leave the home, or do I fall into a high-risk category, based on age or other medical conditions?
- Is there someone in my home, or someone I interact with on a regular basis, who falls into a high-risk category?
If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then exercise extra caution and discretion before leaving the home. Is it a want or is it a need?
- Perform protective hygiene, Distance yourself physically and clean the environment – Fort Bend County residents should practice good hygiene and cleaning practices to minimize the risk of transmission of the virus. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or use hand sanitizer after interactions with people or objects
- Stay home if ill
- Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or do it into the sleeve or elbow, not hands
- Clean high-touch surfaces (buttons, door handles, counters, etc.) regularly
- Avoid touching your face
- Refrain from hand shaking
- Physically distance and keep recommended distance between people outside of your household
- Wear a facial covering when out in public or when in the company of others.
- Assess the Risk – Individuals should assess their risk and make decisions based on their specific circumstances. Those at high risk for COVID-19 (elderly, those with underlying illnesses, etc.) and those around them should use extra precautions as outlined by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), and Fort Bend County Health and Human Services (FBCHHS).
|Activities||High Community Risk for COVID19 Transmission||Moderate Community Risk for COVID-19 Transmission||Low Community Risk for COVID-19 Transmission||New Normal Risk for COVID19 Transmission|
|Going to a Restaurant||Individuals should avoid dine-in eating and limit to drive-through, curbside takeout or delivery. Individuals should look for safe practices in the establishment such as staff wearing facial coverings, touch-free options for payment and pickup. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||Drive-through, curbside Takeout or delivery options remain preferable. Dine-in should only be considered if tables are appropriately spaced (>6 feet), occupancy levels are low, and staff and other patrons are wearing facial coverings and observing physical distancing. Exercise extreme caution if over 65 or in a high risk group. (Facial coverings should be worn when not eating).||Dine-in in services with appropriate physical distancing (>6 feet) and moderate occupancy can be considered. Continue to seek establishments keeping staff and patrons safe by wearing facial coverings and other good practices.(Facial coverings should be worn when not eating).||Dine-in restaurants operating under proper safety precautions for staff & customers|
|Going Shopping||Limit trips to once a week or as necessary. Avoid all but essential shopping and opt for delivery or curbside pickup if available. Practice strict physical distancing while in stores and wear cloth face coverings. Avoid stores where staff are not wearing facial coverings or other safety precautions are not being enforced. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||Continue to limit trips and practice physical distancing. Trips to non-essential stores such as retail could be considered, but delivery or curb side pick-up are still preferred. Facial coverings should be worn by patrons and store employees. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||In-store shopping with physical distancing and facial coverings. Avoid crowded stores or seek alternate times to do your shopping. Shopping for non-essential items should be kept to a minimum.||Continue personal protective measures like facial coverings and physical distancing.|
|Travel/Tourism||Eliminate non-essential travel and group settings. For essential travel, practice strict physical distancing, wear facial coverings, and look for places with no-contact payment and staff taking appropriate precautions. Avoid all group settings or crowded areas at hotels or other facilities. Do not eat in shared dining areas. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||Avoid non-essential travel and continue practicing physical distancing and wearing facial coverings. Wipe down shared spaces frequently. Follow airline, hotel and other safety guidelines. Avoid dining in group settings in hotels or other facilities (see restaurant guidance above). Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||Practice physical distancing, good hand hygiene, and wearing facial coverings. Limited non-essential travel, though travel may be considered to locations without high or medium community COVID-19 spread. Reduce and minimize time spent in group settings.||Continue personal protective measures. Non-essential travel may be considered if there is no high or medium COVID-19 community spread. Practice physical distancing and minimize time spent in group settings.|
|Attending Events & Entertainment||Avoid group settings. Opt for in-home entertainment options to avoid unnecessary risk. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||Attendance not recommended. Only attend events with good practices in place to ensure safe distancing restrictions. Smaller events with less than 10 people preferred. Wear facial coverings. Options like drive-in movies would be preferred if physical distancing can be maintained throughout the whole event. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||Attend events only with proper physical distancing practices in place. Opt for small to medium size events (<50 people) to avoid large group settings.||Attending events with larger groups can be considered. Practice good physical distancing and frequent hand hygiene.|
|Visiting Outdoor Entertainment (Zoos, Arboretum, Concerts, Theme Parks)||Not recommended unless maintaining physical distancing is possible. All high touch surfaces should be avoided. Practice strict hand hygiene. Facial coverings should be worn by visitors and staff. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||Consider some entertainment options as long as physical distancing can be maintained and proper cleaning is taking place on high touch services such as tables, rides, etc. The number of people at events should remain limited, consider waiting to attend if there are crowds and physical distancing is not possible. Wear facial coverings and look for staff and other patrons to do the same.||Continue good personal protective measures such as facial coverings and physical distancing. Consider events that are less crowded and have better controls to keep you safe, such as capped numbers of attendees and good cleaning practices.||Attending events with larger groups can be considered. Practice good physical distancing and frequent hand hygiene.|
|Going to Movie Theaters||Not recommended.||Attendance not recommended unless seating is spaced to allow 6ft of space around each individual or household group. Capacity should be limited to less than 25% occupancy. Practice hand hygiene. Facial coverings should be worn by all patrons and staff due to being inside an enclosed space for a long duration of time. Look for places with good cleaning and safety practices. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group. Limit food consumption from concession stands if good hand hygiene can’t be maintained.||Practice physical distancing, hand hygiene and wear facial coverings. Continue to look for facilities with good operational practices and controls to keep you safe. Utilize good cleaning.||Higher occupancy rates and limited physical distancing may be allowed. If possible, continue to sit well spaced from other attendees and practice good personal protective measures including hand hygiene and wearing a facial covering.|
|Attending Religious Services/ Funerals/Large Gatherings||Avoid in-person attendance. Utilize virtual methods such as live streaming, or other social media-based platforms, for continuance of faith practices. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||In-person attendees should be limited to a number that allows full physical distancing (6 ft on all sides); ideally fewer than 10 people. Cloth facial coverings should be worn by all attendees. Hand hygiene should be practiced. Avoid specific practices that involve close interaction, touch, or shared objects. Avoid social gatherings that may precede or follow services. Avoid if over 65 or in a high risk group.||Maintain physical distancing and facial coverings. Limit gatherings to 50 people. Avoid specific practices that involve close interaction, touch, or shared objects. Continue wearing facial coverings.||Larger group attendance at religious services and funerals can be considered. If possible, continue to sit well spaced from other attendees and practice good personal protective measures including hand hygiene and wearing a facial covering.|
Fort Bend County guidance system for the risk of activities that may put the public at risk of acquiring COVID-19 is based on guidance from the state of Texas and the CDC. The system includes four levels of risk: Red, orange, yellow, and green. Local infectious disease specialists and public health experts will use the latest information on local disease activity to advise county officials on the risk level that applies. Specific indicators for relaxation of activity level include:
- A progressive decrease in daily COVID-19 hospital admissions in the county over more than 14 days.
- A progressive decrease in daily COVID-19 ICU admissions in the county over more than 14 days
- A decreasing trend in the daily number of COVID-19 deaths over more than 14 days
Red is the level of guidance Fort Bend County functions under Stay at Home orders. It translates to STAY HOME, STAY SAFE, only travel for essential needs, and restrict activities and gatherings, enhances protections for high-risk individuals such as the elderly, limits food service, and suggests no personal care services. Each level of guidance after red becomes less restrictive and corresponds to improvement in the COVID-19 epidemic indicated by having fewer hospital, ICU admissions and deaths. After 14 days of improvement in these indicators, the risk will be downgraded from red to orange. Then if the metrics are met for another 14 day period the level can be safely downgraded from orange to yellow, etc. The goal of this system is to protect you and those around you from COVID-19 infection. Green is the lowest level and represents the new normal needed to protect the community from a return of COVID-19 and appearance of future pandemics.
Follow guidance – Public health and economic opportunity are linked. Residents are urged to strictly follow the protective measures of each color to maintain their own health and avoid a resurgence of the epidemic that would cause greater economic harm.
Refinements to this guidance will be made by the Fort Bend County Judge with input from the Economy Recovery Committee.