GALVESTON, Texas – After a state-mandated tightening of coronavirus restrictions prompted businesses to close or reduce capacity in Brazoria and Galveston counties, leaders in both places are asking to be moved into the same trauma service area as Houston.
Brazoria and Galveston counties are in Trauma Service Area R, while Harris County, where Houston is located, is in area Q.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in area R have been at or above 15% for at least two weeks, while the rate has been inching higher to that mark in area Q.
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 were allowed to move to higher occupancy rates in October.
Just before Christmas, the state-issued tighter restrictions for counties TSA R. A move that was protested by Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, who said he had asked the state for an exemption.
Henry, along with Brazoria County Judge Matt Sebesta, signed a letter that was sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services on Wednesday, requesting that their counties be moved into TSA Q, where restrictions have not been tightened.
In their request, The judges cite their distance from the majority of counties in TSA R and their close proximity to TSA Q.
“The spread of COVID-19 within TSA-Q impacts the residents and hospitals in Galveston County and Brazoria County significantly more than the spread of COVID-19 in TSA-R,” the judges wrote. “The counties on the eastern side of Galveston Bay have their own healthcare networks that are not directly nor indirectly connected to the healthcare networks in our counties.”
Henry and Sebesta wrote in the letter that hospitalization rates and bed capacity in their counties have never followed the trends in TSA-R and that DSHS data supports their argument.
“It is detrimental to our local residents and businesses to have public policy decisions based on public health trends of a region that does not reflect our local situation,” the judges wrote.
There are two other Houston-area counties that are in area R -- Chambers and Liberty.
State officials said they will provide a response by Jan. 6.