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Businesses back to 50 percent occupancy due to COVID-19 hospitalizations

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Austin area rise

Restaurants and businesses in Burnet and Llano counties that had been operating at 75 percent capacity are being directed by the state to roll back to 50 percent after COVID-19 hospitalizations for the Austin area triggered the move.

With COVID-19 patient hospitalizations at more than 15 percent of total hospital capacity in the Austin area, the state of Texas is requiring businesses in an 11-county area, including Burnet and Llano counties, to operate at 50 percent occupancy, down from 75 percent.

Texas Commissioner of Health Dr. John Hellerstedt emailed county judges on Sunday, Jan. 10, in the 11-county area known as Trauma Service Area O in regard to the hospitalization rate. Burnet County Judge James Oakley received the letter, as did city mayors in Burnet County, advising them on the current hospitalization rate and what it means to local business operations. The order also curtails elective surgeries for the time being. The percentage is based on the overall region, not individual counties.

Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32 issued on Oct. 7, 2020, when a TSA is deemed to have “high hospitalizations,” the businesses within those counties must adjust their occupancy to 50 percent. Exceptions include religious services, local government operations, public and private schools, and childcare providers.

Businesses that fall under personal care and beauty services can still operate at 75 percent with work stations at least 6 feet apart. 

The governor’s order outlines how this ruling is applied to businesses and organizations.  

A news release from the city of Marble Falls stated that, under this order, the “following apply immediately”:

  • All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close. These businesses may remain open for delivery and take-out, including alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
  • Restaurants may remain open for dine-in services but at a capacity not to exceed 50 percent of total indoor occupancy.
  • All non-essential businesses operate at 50 percent capacity.
  • Rafting and tubing businesses must close.
  • Outdoor gatherings of 10 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.
  • Outdoor areas, events, and establishments may operate at no more than 50 percent. These include amusement parks, water parks, swimming pools, museums and libraries, as well as zoos, aquariums, natural caverns, and similar facilities. 

On Sunday, TSA O hit its seventh consecutive day of COVID-19 patients making up 15 percent or more of total hospital capacity. 

As of that date, the percentage of hospitalized COVID-19 patients as to the number of hospital beds for TSA O was 18.8 percent. 

Under the governor’s rule, the area’s COVID-19 hospitalization rate as compared to overall hospital capacity must drop back to 15 percent or less for seven consecutive days before the rollback is lifted.

A list of TSAs and their counties that are at 15 percent or more of total hospital capacities with COVID-19 patients can be found on the DSHS website

TSA O includes Burnet, Llano, Blanco, Williamson, Travis, Bastrop, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, and San Saba counties.