Travis County bars to remain closed for another two weeks, county judge says


TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe is keeping bars and nightclubs in Austin and Travis County closed for at least another two weeks, according to a statement from his office Tuesday afternoon.

Biscoe said it’s not a risk he’s willing to take with schools reopening for more in-person learning soon.

“As promised, Dr. Mark Escott and I have spent the past two weeks evaluating the COVID-19 data for Travis County.  Unfortunately, we have not seen significant improvement in our hospital bed utilization or in the utilization of ICU beds,” Biscoe said in a statement. “Furthermore, with school districts preparing to allow for additional in-person learning and the upcoming weekend celebrations, we must be mindful of the increased public interaction that will take place as a result.  For these reasons, it is my decision not to open bars.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave county judges the power to reopen bars to 50% capacity in areas with low hospitalizations earlier this month. Biscoe initially stopped bars from reopening on Oct. 14 and said he would revisit the decision in two weeks.

Now that the two weeks is up, Biscoe is still standing firm in keeping bars closed and listening to the advice from Austin Public Health leaders.

In an Oct. 27 memo to Biscoe from Dr. Mark Escott, the Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority, Escott said there hasn’t been improvement in hospital and ICU bed utilizations for COVID-19.

Escott recommended that bars stay closed, to avoid a strain on healthcare resources and hospitals.

It was a sentiment Escott also conveyed to Travis County commissioners on Tuesday. He said projections show Austin and Travis County could go back into Stage 4 of COVID-19 restrictions as early as next week.

“In review of the projections for the Austin MSA, there is ongoing concern for the threat of substantial increases in the utilization of hospital beds, ICUs and ventilators,” Escott said in the memo to Biscoe.

Biscoe said in the statement he will revisit the decision again in two weeks.

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