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Texas Trauma Service Area (TSA) Region O, which includes Williamson County, has experienced a steady increase in people hospitalized due to the COVID-19 virus. Per Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, certain businesses may be required to decrease their occupancy limit if the trend continues.
Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, which went into effect on October 14, 2020, states that when the TSA has a high hospitalization rate, any business establishment that was allowed to operate at 75 percent occupancy limit must rollback to a 50 percent occupancy limit. A high hospitalization rate is defined in the Order as any TSA that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of the total hospital capacity exceeds 15 percent.
Region O’s hospitalization rate surpassed 15 percent on Sunday, January 3, 2021, and has increased since then. A rollback has not been mandated yet, but is anticipated due to the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Williamson County will further notify residents in the event that the Texas Department of State Health Services issues a determination letter stating the region has become an area of high hospitalizations. This notice could be issued as early as Sunday, January 10, based upon current hospitalization data.
In addition, GA-32 states that bars or similar establishments that are not restaurants cannot operate indoors on premises, but may offer drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options as authorized by the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC). The occupancy limit applies only to indoor and not outdoor areas, events, or establishments, although social distancing and other safety protocols must be followed.
A rollback to occupancy limits does not affect businesses such as religious services, local government operations, child care services, youth camps, recreation sports programs for youth and adults, public or private schools, and drive-in concerts, movies or similar events, which are listed as having no occupancy limit according to the Order. Personal-care and beauty services can operate with at least six feet of social distancing between work stations. All of the exemptions and information in GA-32 can be found on Governor Abbott’s website here.
“It has never been more crucial for us as a community to reduce the spread of this virus,” said Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell.
“We all must consistently follow the personal protective measures we have been emphasizing throughout the course of this pandemic. Please wear a mask, watch your distance around people outside your household, and wash your hands frequently. This is the best way to keep ourselves and our family members safe and reduce the number of people being hospitalized daily,” added Gravell.
According to Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, businesses that have been required to roll back to a 50 percent occupancy limit may return to 75 percent occupancy when the TSA hospitalization rate for COVID-19 returns to below 15 percent for seven consecutive days.
Additional information on GA-32 and data on hospitalizations is available from the Texas Department of State Health Services here.