Texas county unveils color-coded coronavirus alert system in evaluating COVID-19 risk

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Dallas County in Texas this week launched a new color-coded alert system to help residents better understand what level of risk they are taking when venturing out in public amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic in the U.S.

The initiative, which is based on guidance from Texas health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was created by Dallas County’s public health committee, according to local news station Fox 4. 

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The color-coded scheme includes four levels: red, orange, yellow, and green. The levels help residents to understand the risk they are taking when approaching everyday activities, such as going shopping, traveling, or attending religious services.

Red is the highest level, representing the most risk for community-based transmission of the virus. Orange represents a moderate risk, yellow is low, while green is the “new normal risk” for transmission of the virus, according to a Dallas County news release.

“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,” the release reads, in part. “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.”

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The county’s current status is red, meaning residents should continue to social distance and only venture out of their homes for essential goods. The status will change as certain milestones are met within the community in containing the spread of the novel virus.

More specifically, “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.,” officials said.

The initiative mirrors the color-coded terrorism alert system introduced by the Bush administration in March 2002 in response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. However, in 2011, the Department of Homeland Security did away with it and instead implemented the National Terrorism Advisory System.

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Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins during a news conference on Monday said the system is for guidance purposes only.

“It’s your decision. This is a guidance,” Jenkins said, according to Fox 4. “These are recommendations from doctors. These aren’t orders.”

As of Tuesday, Dallas County reported 6,359 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and some 148  virus-related deaths, according to official estimates.