In a move that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he has been waiting three years for, Dallas County will be moving away from its color-coded risk level gauge system and transitioning into a “new normal.”

The announcement, which comes as the Dallas County Public Health Committee says it has seen declining rates of COVID-19 infections, was made at a Commissioners Court meeting March 7.

“We found that our current metrics are not capturing the current dynamic situation,” a letter from the public health committee to Jenkins states. “For this reason, we suggest a transition away from the current risk color stratification system.”

According to a letter from the public health committee, positive tests for COVID-19 are declining along with hospitalization rates and length of hospital stays related to the virus. While noting that hospital occupancy rates in the area remain high—between 94%-97%—due to a number of factors, hospitalizations due to other respiratory infections like influenza and RSV are declining along with COVID hospitalizations.

Citing those figures along with the around 1.8 million residents that have received at least one vaccine dose, or about 71% of the population, the public health committee recommended the transition away from the color-coded system. The “new normal” that will take its place comes with a number of recommendations:
  • Evaluate personal risk and risk to those around you;
  • High-risk residents are encouraged to mask in public spaces;
  • Evaluate group activities based on individual risk;
  • Supporting masking in all health care settings; and
  • Following the vaccination recommendations from Dallas County Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This new normal acknowledges that individuals in Dallas County remain at risk for COVID and other respiratory infections, but also acknowledges the impact of immunity from COVID-19 vaccinations and/or prior infections,” the letter states.

The color-coded risk system was first implemented in May 2020, when Dallas County was at a red level meaning residents were advised to stay home. Risk assessments were based on factors like intensive care unit admissions and number of COVID-related deaths. In April 2022, the risk level was moved to green, its lowest level.

“We will continue to monitor the situation, look at hospitalization rates, wastewater surveillance data, vaccination rates, percent positivity and CDC levels to ensure we provide our residents with the best advice to stay safe,” the letter states.