Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders, that means that businesses in the 11-county area known as Trauma Service Area O must roll back their opening capacities from 75% to 50%, and elective surgeries must be put on hold, effective immediately.
The rule that businesses must scale back capacity in areas with high rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations was put in place in October, when Abbott issued executive order GA-32.
The Central Texas region exceeded the 15% threshold Jan. 3, and the COVID-19 hospitalization rate continued to climb over the course of the week, from 15.25% Jan. 3 to 18.87% Jan. 9. In a Jan. 10 letter, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt informed county judges that elective surgeries may not be conducted in their jurisdictions and businesses will need to roll back capacity.
In addition to Hays, Travis and Williamson counties, the other counties included in TSA O are: Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Lee, Llano and San Saba.
The Central Texas region is not the only one to experience an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations recently. Twenty of the state’s 22 regions had COVID-19 patents making up more than 15% of total hospitalizations in their respective areas as of Jan. 9. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 statewide have also continued to climb through the last few months, increasing by more than 4,000 through December.
“The state is in surge,” Austin-Travis County interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said at a Jan. 6 press conference. “The state is in crisis, and now is the time more than ever that we need everyone to band together and follow those directions.”