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Houston coastal neighbor forced into COVID restrictions due to rising cases

Houston neighbor forced into COVID restrictions due to rising cases

Galveston beach with umbrellas
Galveston County is now on a pandemic restriction.  Photo courtesy of Galveston Island Visitors & Convention Bureau

Some counties in southeast Texas are having to return to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, a move that was blasted Tuesday, December 22 by Galveston County Judge Mark Henry.

Texas Dept. of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt notified the county that it had reached the threshold that requires tightening restrictions under Gov. Greg Abbott's latest executive order on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rollback includes the closure of bars, reducing restaurant capacity to 50 percent and it cancels most elective medical procedures at hospitals. It impacts counties that belong to Texas Trauma Service Area R, which includes Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, and Orange counties.

Businesses from Beaumont to Galveston are impacted by the rollback, though Harris County and Houston are not.

"We saw this coming and sent multiple requests to the state on why they should not rely on the information they had," Henry said. "We did not receive any acknowledgement of our request."

Galveston County saw a two-day total of 259 additional new COVID-19 cases, according to Galveston County Health District data released December 21. A total of 17,686 county residents have tested positive for the Coronavirus since mid-March, according to the Texas Dept. of State Health Services COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard reported 200 deaths were to blame on the virus as of December 22.

Henry said he continues to oppose the new restrictions, which include closing bars and other businesses again, as well as reducing capacity in places like restaurants. Bars and other businesses in regions of the state with high hospitalization rates are supposed to close, according to an order from Abbott that was issued on October.

"Areas with high hospitalizations" means any Trauma Service Area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15 percent, until such time as the Trauma Service Area has seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity is 15 percent or less," the order states.

Texas Trauma Service Area R, which also includes Brazoria, Chambers, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton and Orange counties had 248 beds available out of 1,474 beds on Tuesday, including 8 in ICUs. 1,106 people were hospitalized Monday, according to data from TDSHS.

Those figures were disputed Tuesday by Henry, who said multiple agencies were reporting different numbers.

"It's flawed data," Henry said.

While bars should close, according to the Governor's order, Henry said the Galveston County sheriff did not have the resources to enforce it, though state authorities may choose to hold violators accountable.

"The state has its own police in the TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission)," Henry said.

Galveston and Texas City have seen 2,595 and 2,340 cases, respectively, and Friendswood has seen a total of 1,014 cases, according to GCHD data. More than a quarter of the total cases — 4,000, or 28 percent — have been in League City, and three in every 10 of the 1,427 currently active cases are in League City.

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For more on this story, visit our news partner ABC13.

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