HOUSTON – Relaxed restrictions were rolled back Tuesday in some Houston-area counties where coronavirus-related hospitalizations remain high.
According to data from the Department of State Health Services, hospitalizations have been above 15% in Trauma Service Area R. The area includes Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston and Liberty counties in the Houston region.
That mark is important because it triggers stricter provisions of the Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order GA-32, which was issued in October. Among those tightened restrictions are the stopping of elective surgeries and reducing the capacity of places that could move to higher occupancy rates in October.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said the state’s order took effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday and it requires all bars to close and restaurants to operate at 50% capacity.
“The effects of that are going to be dramatic and, in some cases, devastating,” Henry said.
Officials in Brazoria and Chambers also confirmed that reopenings are being rolled back per the governor’s order. KPRC 2 is still trying to reach leaders in Liberty County.
A similar change was implemented in the Trauma Service Area that includes Dallas earlier this month.
Galveston County asks for exemption
Henry said he has sent three requests for Galveston County to be exempt from the tighter restrictions, but those requests have gone unanswered.
The judge said hospitals in the county have told officials that there are no issues regarding capacity or staffing. He said that hospitals in Galveston County are taking patients from the surrounding area and only 65 county residents are hospitalized with COVID-19.
Henry described the data being used by the state to make this decision as flawed and unreliable.
“We have tried to explain that Galveston County is in a Trauma Service Area, TSA, that extends from Brazoria County to the Louisiana state line up to Jasper, and to try to impose a one-size-fits-all solution for that large of a geographic area is really ridiculous.”
The judge said local law enforcement is busy and doesn’t have the manpower to enforce the tighter restrictions, but he noted the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission can still yank licenses away from establishments that violate the order. He said the Galveston County District Attorney has said he will likely not accept charges related to violations of the order.
State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) said he plans to fight for legislation that changes the power of disaster orders during the next legislative session that starts in January.
You can watch a replay of Henry’s news conference below.