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Bars ordered to close, restaurant and business capacity rolled back as area COVID-19 hospitalizations rise

Bars that don’t serve food must close, restaurants and businesses must reduce capacity and...
Bars that don’t serve food must close, restaurants and businesses must reduce capacity and elective surgeries are on hold in Bell County as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise.
Published: Jan. 6, 2021 at 11:38 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2021 at 3:01 PM CST
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - Bars that don’t serve food must close, restaurants and businesses must reduce capacity and elective surgeries are on hold in Bell County as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise, Bell County Judge David Blackburn announced Wednesday.

The bar closure order affects 43 of the more than 300 bars in Bell County, Blackburn said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.

The 43 bars hold only mixed drink permits.

Restaurants and businesses must roll back capacity from 75% to 50%.

Occupancy limits don’t apply to churches, schools, hair salons and essential services, he said.

In state Trauma Service Area L, which includes Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam and Mills counties, at least 237 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Wednesday, accounting for about 29% all hospitalizations and filling about 22% of available beds.

The Texas Department of State Health Services advised the counties Tuesday that the TSA’s hospitalization rate is sufficiently high to trigger capacity reductions under orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.

Coryell County Judge Roger Miller says the same restrictions are in effect in his county, but says he’s seeking an exemption from the governor’s office on bar closings.

“I have no reason to believe out three bar establishments are significantly responsible for the increased COVID cases in Coryell County or within the TSA,” Miller said in a press release Wednesday.

“I see no reason why our three establishments should be penalized.”

Miller said Coryell County isn’t solely responsible for the rising hospitalization rate in the TSA, but he says it has contributed to the number.

“We are seeing a strain on the healthcare system throughout the region and state,” he said.

“This is exactly what we wanted to avoid when the governor shut down the state in late March of last year. If the rise in the infection rate continues, doctors and medical staff locally and regionally will have to start selecting who receives inpatient treatment, and I believe that may be the case already.”

The temporary restrictions and capacity rollbacks will remain in place until COVID-19 hospitalizations drop.

Bell County Public Health District Director Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell says she thinks case counts will begin to decline now that the holidays are over.

“To be very honest with you I thought our numbers would be far worse than they are coming out of the holiday season, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

The same orders were issued in late November in McLennan County because of high hospitalization rates in Trauma Service Area M, which also includes Bosque, Falls, Hill and Limestone counties.

On Wednesday COVID-19 patients accounted for about 42% of all hospitalizations and occupied about 34% of available beds in the TSA.

Freestone, Leon, Navarro and Robertson counties are also in Trauma Service Areas in which hospitalization rates exceed the 15% limit set in Abbott’s orders.

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