Restaurants in Austin and Travis Counties must immediately reduce their indoor dining capacity to 50 percent due to the high number of COVID-19-related hospital stays in the area, as announced on Sunday, January 10th. The rollbacks were triggered by the hospitalization rate in the region, up more than 15 percent in the past seven days, as requested by Greg Abbott’s executive order in the fall.
There were 586 new COVID-related hospital admissions on January 9 and over 450 new cases every day for the past week.
The order comes while Austin and Travis Counties are in Phase 5 of their risk-based guidelines, in which officials recommend that restaurants voluntarily close dining areas, or at least close indoor areas and limit outdoor capacity to 50 percent. In a press release, Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County’s Interim Health Authority: “The projections have been worrying for some time and this is just the latest reminder that Austin-Travis County has seen a fatal increase in holiday gatherings and post-event gatherings in these cases. “
The return to 50 percent capacity has already occurred in many counties in the state, including Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and the Houston counties. Escott said, however, that cases in these areas are still on the rise and these restrictions alone won’t be enough to offset the surge. “We need everyone in this community who understands that exceeding our hospital capacity is now inevitable, but how far we exceed that capacity depends on all of us. Today is the day to stay home and reduce risk to save our hospitals and lives, “he said in the statement.
Abbott’s plan, released in early October, uses the hospital stay metric rather than the number of cases as a guideline for prompting any kind of reduction in business capacity. If the percentage of hospital stays related to COVID-19 stays above 15 percent for seven days, businesses in the region that opened with 75 percent capacity will have to go back to 50 percent and bars will have to close. However, bars can stay open if the district judges don’t go with the plan, as was the case in the Galveston district. (While the bars in Travis County are technically closed, many bars have reopened as restaurants due to loopholes in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission like serving food.)
Travis County falls under the Trauma Service Area O, a regional facility responsible for planning ambulance services, which also includes Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, San Saba, and Williamson counties .
Over the New Year’s weekend, Austin and Travis County tried to help reduce the COVID-19 surge by introducing a required nightly curfew, but the state of Texas eventually blocked those efforts.