In August, Harris County officials worked with regional nonprofit Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council to find and hire nurses that were desperately needed in Greater Houston-area hospitals amid a surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant. About two months later, a majority of the deployed nurses finished their temporary contracts, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced at the Oct 26 Harris County Commissioners Court meeting.
“I verified that the hospitals feel comfortable; they're able to go back to their usual staffing contracts,” Hidalgo said. “[They’re] still having to contract out some nurses, but it's not the surge contract.”
The SETRAC is a chartered entity of the Texas Department of State Health Services. The $30 million grant-funded initiative approved by the Harris County Commissioners Court on Aug. 24 aimed to place additional nurses in Greater Houston-area hospitals in light of medical personnel shortages exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We were able to stay within the $30 million,” Hidalgo said Oct. 26.
With coronavirus cases trending down in Harris County in recent weeks, Hidalgo said she will consider switching the county’s emergency status from a Level 1 or "severe" threat to a Level 2 or "significant" threat by Nov. 1.
“Indicators are looking very, very good,” Hidalgo said. “The only indicator that's holding us back right now is the hospital population needs to get to 15% of the hospital population being COVID positive, and we're at 18[%].”
For a Level 1 threat level, county officials recommend residents stay home unless they are fully vaccinated. For Level 2, county officials still recommend residents minimize all contact with others unless they are fully vaccinated. The system has four threat levels total with Level 1 being the most severe threat level.
“At this rate, hopefully, we'll quickly progress down the rest of the indicator,” Hidalgo said. “And that all hinges on the vaccination rate, which has slowed down significantly.”