Bars must close indoor service; restaurants reduce capacity to 50%.
As of Tuesday, January 5, Houston-area hospitalization rates exceeded 15% for seven consecutive days, inciting a restriction rollback writ in Gov. Greg Abbott’s reopening legislation. [Featured image:@beckeli via Unsplash]
Back in October, Abbott granted select Texas county bars to reopen to half capacity, with restaurants able to open at 75%. With initial hesitancy from local governments in Austin, Dallas, and Houston, bars and restaurants re-opened.
As predicted, Texas counties saw a surge of COVID-related hospitalizations over the holiday season. Recently, the City of Austin attempted to levy restrictions over New Year’s weekend amid a spike in COVID cases. The restrictions mandated a curfew on bars and restaurants dining in services.
Abbott, however, vehemently opposed such restrictions per his executive order. Shortly thereafter, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of holding up the order, banning such restrictions in the capital.
The executive order (GA-32), however, contains a caveat upholding that restrictions would be reinstated if counties, or Trauma Service Areas (TSAs) were to exceed hospitalization rates of 15% for seven consecutive days.
“Counties that reside in Trauma Service Areas (TSAs) with high COVID‑19 hospitalizations are excluded from these reopenings.”
As it stands, TSAs encompass the following counties: Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Harris, Matagorda, Montgomery, Waller, and Walker. As such, counties must halt indoor bars and limit restaurant capacities to 50 percent.
“It’s been a steady march up and up now. We’re not quite yet at the peak level that we were at in summer, but we’re really close–a couple of days away,” said Houston Methodist CEO, Dr. Marc Boom.