Williamson County judge: It is ‘not the plan’ to return to COVID-19 lockdowns

Williamson County courthouse
Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell at a July 20 public meeting said he has no plans to implement capacity restrictions on businesses because of local rising coronavirus rates. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell at a July 20 public meeting said he has no plans to implement capacity restrictions on businesses because of local rising coronavirus rates. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell at a July 20 public meeting said he has no plans to implement capacity restrictions on businesses because of local rising coronavirus rates.

“It is not the plan of this county judge to shut down local businesses,” Gravell said at the July 20 Williamson County Commissioners Court meeting. “We have to figure out a way to survive [COVID-19.]”

The announcement comes one day after the Williamson County and Cities Health District announced the county has met the criteria to increase to the COVID-19 Red Phase, meaning there has been an increase of COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates over at least seven days.

Changes to the WCCHD stages do not result in any changes to local rules or regulations for businesses.

According to the WCCHD coronavirus dashboard, the rate of new infections across Williamson County doubled from July 11-18, the last day data is available on the dashboard. The rate of 14.54 cases per 100,000 residents is the highest rate Williamson County has reported since March 3.

The rate of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Williamson County “remain fairly low at 4.65%,” according to a July 19 WCCHD news release, but that rate has also more than doubled over the past two weeks.

Gravell’s comment came as the judge was responding to residents providing public comment on a Williamson County Commissioners Court item to pay local health care provider Family Emergency Room for coronavirus testing services.

During the public comment period attached to the item, a Williamson County resident asked Gravell if the county was going to establish any drive-thru vaccination sites.

“Do we have a county plan on doing drive-thru vaccinations again? The answer is, no,” Gravell said July 20. “We have 50 locations [where] people can go get vaccinated. If you chose to get vaccinated, go. If you choose not to get vaccinated, don’t go, but don’t be critical of others.”

The WCCHD coronavirus dashboard shows just over 60% of eligible Williamson County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Travis County is reporting a similar rate.

According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, none of the other counties neighboring Williamson County—which include Burnet, Bastrop, Milam, Lee and Bell counties—have more than 50% of the population over 12 years of age vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Gravell at the meeting also pointed to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott in early March that limits what county judges can and cannot impose for coronavirus mitigation efforts.

Executive Order GA-34, which became effective March 10, mandates county judges may not require businesses to operate at less than 50% capacity. Further, county judges are prohibited from imposing operating limits on religious services, public and private schools, higher education institutions and child care services.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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