Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Houston must act now to address the COVID-19 crisis as more and more people continue to test positive.
She referred to the color-coded COVID-19 threat level system she introduced a few weeks ago. She said the county is now at level two, which is orange. The next level is one.
"The reason I have not yet put us on red and come out with the new steps is because I'm having those conversations with the state trying to get to a place where our restrictions will be enforceable," explained Hidalgo. "If they're not, then I will come back and just issue recommendations, but I know that will be less effective."
She hasn't said what the restrictions or recommendations would be, but she hopes to have more guidance from the state in the next couple of days.
This comes as hospitals across the Houston area near capacity.
Both LBJ and Ben Taub are transferring patients from the emergency areas to other hospitals. Both hospitals reported high capacity before the pandemic.
On Wednesday, the numbers were telling. LBJ'S ICU capacity was at 120 percent while Ben Taub's was at 88 percent.
Meanwhile, UMMC said it's at 85 percent capacity for its COVID-19 unit. This comes after the hospital added 12 beds to their unit. Plus, as of June 23, 97 percent of ICU beds were occupied at the Texas Medical Center.
While only 27 percent of the ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, data suggests ICU capacity could be exceeded in two weeks.
To learn more, visit the Texas Medical Center's website.
Hospitals tell CultureMap news partner, ABC13, that they have surge plans in place.
"If we need to surge to greater numbers than we normally would in our ICUs, what do you need? You need the physical beds," said president and CEO of Houston Methodist, Dr. Marc Boom. "You might need ventilators, you need supplies and equipment and you need personnel. Every one of those has its own dynamics but we've been planning."
But there is some good news: Boom said many of the patients that are hospitalized are younger and their stays don't require them to be placed in the ICU. Plus, medical workers are learning more about how to better treat COVID-19 patients.
For more on this story, including video, visit our news partner, ABC13.