Houston-area hospitalizations drop below threshold allowing expanded reopenings

HOUSTON – Coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the Houston area have dropped below a state-mandated threshold, which dictates how restaurants and bars can operate amid the pandemic.

According to a spokesman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area Q, which includes Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, have been below 15% for seven consecutive days. According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, the same is the case for TSA R, which includes Brazoria and Galveston counties.

This means, among other things, that restaurants can increase to 75% capacity and bars can reopen at 50% capacity. Bar reopenings are at the discretion of the county judge, according to Abbott’s spokesman.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a written statement, called this an “unacceptable and dangerous proposition.” Her entire statement is below:

“We’re far from life back to normal in Harris County. We’re still seeing hundreds of positive cases per day, a sky-high positivity rate, and high hospitalization percentages that cannot be the starting point for yet another wave. Every time there has been a reopening, that has been followed by a spike in hospitalizations. If we start the climb now, we’d be starting from the highest starting point ever, an unacceptable and dangerous proposition. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines we’re inching closer to the finish line of this pandemic - now is not the time to reverse the gains we’ve worked so hard to achieve.”

A spokesperson for Hidalgo said the judge previously signed an order that closes bars in Harris County and that will continue moving forward.

A spokesman for Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said authorities received a letter Sunday from DSHS about the reopenings. Businesses were notified of the reopenings Monday, the spokesman said.

A spokesman for Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said the judge has already signed the necessary paperwork to allow bars to reopen.

Restaurants have been at 50% capacity and bars have been closed since early January.

About the Author:

Aaron Barker has been a senior digital editor at KPRC 2 since 2016. As a meteorologist, he specializes in stories about the weather. He has covered Hurricane Harvey, the Astros first World Series win, the Santa Fe High School shooting, the ITC fire and Tropical Storm Imelda.