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What to know as Dallas County's COVID-19 threat level has gone back up

How does Dallas County's most recent COVID-19 risk level heightening to orange compare to the past two times the county was in the orange?

DALLAS — Dallas County recently returned to the orange or "extreme caution" section of its COVID-19 risk level color-coded chart.

Judge Clay Jenkins sent a tweet late Friday night saying the county's public health committee had unanimously decided to make this move.

This comes during a time as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are starting to rise across not just Dallas County but Texas as well.

So here's a look back at how this change compares to when the county was in the orange in the past to put the shift into context.

Credit: Jay Wallis
Dallas has 3 days where the number of new cases exceeded 3,500, state data says. It happened on Aug. 17 (5,361), Dec. 29 (6,622) and Jan. 4 (6,009).

Starting from red

On May 11, 2020, Jenkins first introduced the concept of the county's COVID-19 color-coded risk level model. Dallas County started in the red section, which means there is a "high community risk" for passing COVID-19. This has also been known as the "stay home, stay safe" section.

Dallas County, however, didn't really see a significant spike in cases and hospitalizations until June 2020.

According to the guidelines, being in the red means Dallas County health leaders are asking people to avoid dine-in eating at restaurants and limit drive-through trips as well.

To see a more detailed breakdown of what each colored section looks like and means, you can click here.

Short move to orange

On Sept. 2, 2020, local health officials moved Dallas County to orange for the first time. This risk alert level is also known as "extreme caution."

Part of the changes included health leaders saying people could now safely start having small groups in their homes among with other recommendations.

Dallas County remained orange for a little more than a month.

During these six weeks in the orange, Dallas County had an average of 361 new daily cases and 247 hospitalizations a day.

RELATED: Lawmakers petition Gov. Greg Abbott to reverse mask mandate ban for schools

The worst stretch in the red

On Oct. 14, 2020, county health officials moved Dallas County back to the red due to a "new and quickly escalating wave" of COVID-19 cases in the area at the time, Jenkins said.

County health officials recommended people stay home as much as possible and avoid dining out. The announcement came when many counties across the state approved re-opening bars.

Following this change is when Dallas County, Texas and many parts of the country saw the worst spread of the COVID-19 virus from November 2020 through February 2021.

Back to orange

On March 24, 2021, Jenkins moved Dallas County back to the orange for the first time in more than six months.

Despite an outbreak at the time that happened in an Addison school, Jenkins said the numbers were trending in the right direction.

“This move signals that more activities can be considered safe by doctors if appropriate precautions are taken,” Jenkins said at the time. “For instance, trips for haircuts and other personal grooming outside the home are now considered safe if masks are worn, and eating on a patio at an appropriate distance is also considered a safe option.” 

Dallas County would remain in the orange for nearly four months, with cases and hospitalizations remaining at a relatively low level.

During this 12-week stretch, Dallas County averaged 129 new daily cases and 161 hospitalizations a day.

Down to yellow for about a month

On June 14, 2021, Jenkins moved Dallas County down another notch to yellow. This is also known as a "low community risk" or the "proceed carefully" level.

 This was the lowest it had been since Jenkins announced the system in May 2020.

In his announcement, Jenkins said the move down to yellow was specifically for "unvaccinated people."

County health officials said this means vaccinated people can be more comfortable with in-store shopping and certain travel. Vaccinated people would be able to resume most activities without wearing masks, according to Jenkins.

Credit: Jay Wallis

Third time in orange

On July 23, 2021, Dallas County health officials moved Dallas County back to orange for the third time since Jenkins introduced the threat level system.

As of the past six weeks, Dallas County has had an average of 141 new daily cases and 138 hospitalizations a day. This is lower than the 6-week averages from last fall, and it is closer to what the numbers looked like when the county was in the orange earlier this year.

No new protocols or restrictions were put in place as a result of this recently upgraded threat level. 

County officials say this is a recommendation of precautions for unvaccinated people.