The Greater Houston region has officially crossed the state-mandated hospitalization threshold that would trigger COVID-19 reopening rollbacks.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo confirmed the change on Tuesday, January 5, tweeting: “The Harris County region officially crossed the state’s hospitalization threshold triggering #COVID19 reopening rollbacks. Honestly, this is just another milestone on the road to a catastrophe unless each of us acts. We can’t rely on a small occupancy rollback. Do your part.”
As CultureMap previously reported, this follows an order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that any Trauma Service Area (TSA) that has seen the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations exceed 15 percent within seven consecutive days must close bars and reduce restaurant capacity to 50 percent.
In Houston, bars currently operating have converted to restaurants for TABC purposes. That means they can remain at 50-percent capacity. However, surrounding counties such as Montgomery County and Fort Bend County will be forced to close bars.
On Monday, December 4, TSA Q, a region that includes Harris County, was just one day away from having COVID-19 hospitalizations at 15 percent capacity or higher for seven days in a row, CultureMap news partner ABC13 notes. Meanwhile, Department of State Health Services data showed Texas TSA Q was at 15 percent from December 29 to January 3 — six consecutive days.
That will no doubt trigger Houston-area COVID-19 restrictions seen during the earlier phases of reopening.
Some local business owners are already pushing back. In Montgomery County, Sandra Young, owner of Bokeeters bar, tells ABC13 the move feels like an “attack on small business” and worries about her staff. “Somebody has to put their foot down,” says Young. “Somebody has to say no. We have been force-fed coronavirus for a year. It's been shoved down our throats I don't know what else we can do.”
Eric Sandler and ABC13 contributed to this story.