Rising Central Texas hospitalizations could trigger tighter business capacity across 11 counties


WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Rising hospitalization rates in the Central Texas trauma service area — which includes Travis, Williamson, Hays and eight other counties — could trigger tighter capacity limits for businesses as soon as this weekend.

This means businesses operating at 75% would have to rollback their occupancy limit to 50%, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s October executive order. Bars that have also been allowed to reopen by county judges wouldn’t be able to operate indoors, but can offer drive-thru, pickup or delivery options, as outlined by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The order states a “high hospitalization rate” means any region that has had seven consecutive days where the number of patients hospitalized for the coronavirus as a percentage of total hospital beds has exceeded 15%.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has broken the state up into different trauma service areas. The Capitol Area Trauma Service Area, also called Trauma Service Area “O”, has 11 counties:

  • Bastrop
  • Blanco
  • Burnet
  • Caldwell
  • Fayette
  • Hays
  • Lee
  • Llano
  • San Saba
  • Travis
  • Williamson

Region O’s hospitalization rate surpassed 15% on Sunday and has increased since then, according to Williamson County. A rollback hasn’t been passed yet, but business owners should be preparing due to hospitalizations trending upward, the county said.

That rollback could come as soon as this Sunday if the hospitalization rate stays high for a few more days.

Although the change would affect more than just Williamson County, officials there say they will warn residents if and when DSHS issues a determination letter to change the capacity limits.

Other counties in the KXAN viewing area, but not in Trauma Service Area “O”, have already had this happen.

Gillespie County, included in Trauma Service Area “P”, notified residents on Dec. 29 that businesses had to rollback capacity and bars had to close. County Judge Mark Stroeher’s announcement said the county was alerted by both DSHS and TABC. The county’s new restrictions started Dec. 30.

78624 The Bar, located in Downtown Fredericksburg, has been operating at 50% since before the new restrictions, to be extra cautious.

Brandon Vinyard is a bartender there.

“It’s a hurt in the paycheck, but we’ve been busy,” he told us. “At 50%, we’ve been at capacity Friday and Saturday nights.”

The limit applies only to indoor and not outdoor areas, events or establishments, but other protocols like social distancing must still be followed. Some businesses and events are exempt from the capacity limit rollback. You can check those online.

Additionally, businesses will be able to go back to 75% when the hospitalization rate stays below 15% for seven consecutive days.

Across Texas

This overview of Texas shows which counties (in red) are in regions with high hospitalization rates as of Jan. 7 by DSHS’ definition. Businesses there have had to rollback capacity limits from 75% to 50%. Counties in light red are qualified for “attestation”, which means they can stay at 75%.

Places like El Paso, Harris, Dallas and Tarrant counties are all included.

Texas counties in regions that have high hospitalization rates, per the Texas Department of State Health Services' definition. (Image: Christopher Adams)
Texas counties in regions that have high hospitalization rates (shown in red), per the Texas Department of State Health Services’ definition. (Image: Christopher Adams)

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