Harris County’s COVID-19 threat level was raised from “yellow” to “orange” on Monday, due to the explosive growth of the omicron variant across the region.

The new advisory signifies an ongoing, uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County.

As of Sunday, 82% of Houston Methodist Hospital’s new symptomatic COVID-19 cases were omicron. Hospital officials say positive omicron cases are currently doubling every two to three days, and added that omicron is now likely the predominant variant in the region — just three weeks after it was first identified.

During a Monday press conference, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the threat level was raised due to a rapid increase in new cases and positivity rate in the county. She added that Harris County Public Health has reported the county’s first omicron-related death on Monday — the individual was in his 50s and resided in Harris County Precinct Two.

“As we’ve been expecting, the omicron of COVID-19 has arrived in full force,” Hidalgo said. 

Hidalgo last raised the COVID threat level to “red” in August, when the delta variant caused a fourth wave of the pandemic across Texas. The threat level was lowered to “orange,” and then “yellow” in November, as ICU hospitalizations and new cases began trending downward.

“I know for folks in Harris County, this feels like whiplash. We saw the downward trend in hospitalizations and cases only to to see things trend back up again and it is so frustrating, I feel it too,” Hidalgo said. “The good news is that with omicron, it appears that so long as you are vaccinated and boosted, the rate of hospitalizations is decoupling from infections.”