Austin area businesses may operate at higher capacity after decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Saturday marks the seventh straight day that COVID-19 patients have accounted for less than 15% of staffed beds in our hospital region, meaning business capacity limits for the area could be relaxed.

Restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms and exercise facilities and classes, museums and libraries could soon be able to operate at 75% again, according to a previous order from Gov. Greg Abbott. Elective surgeries would also be able to resume at hospitals.

Trauma Service Area O has been below the 15% hospitalization threshold from Saturday, Jan. 23 to Friday, Jan. 29. Hospitalization data from the state is released a day late. The state’s newest numbers, released for Friday, put the current COVID-19 hospitalization rate in our area at 12.05%, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell has made a request with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to allow bars to reopen at 50% capacity for indoor seating, according to a release from the county.   

The counties included in the Trauma Service Area O are:

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

Local businesses were forced to operate at 50% capacity for nearly three weeks after the COVID-19 hospitalization rate exceeded the 15% threshold in the area for seven straight days from Jan. 3 through Jan. 9. The area was above the 15% limit for the following two weeks.

There are 11,369 active COVID-19 cases in the KXAN viewing area as of Friday. More than 400,000 Texans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and another 1.3 million have received the first dose of the vaccine.

Austin-Travis County is still in Stage 5 for COVID-19 risk. This week, Dr. Mark Escott, the county’s interim health authority, said the area will likely stay in stage 5 through the middle of February.

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