UPDATED: Keough allows outdoor gatherings of 10 or more in Montgomery County; sheriff's office will respond to violations after tightened restrictions triggered

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough expressed his opposition to the restrictions in a Jan. 6 video posted to social media. (Screenshot courtesy Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough)
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough expressed his opposition to the restrictions in a Jan. 6 video posted to social media. (Screenshot courtesy Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough)

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough expressed his opposition to the restrictions in a Jan. 6 video posted to social media. (Screenshot courtesy Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough)

Updated Jan. 7, 12:57 p.m.

In the Jan. 6 video posted to social media, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough stated the county will allow outdoor gatherings of 10 people or more, in compliance with Gov. Greg Abbott's GA-32 executive order.

"I've taken this opportunity to help create a proclamation that if you would like to gather in groups of 10 or more outdoors, you have the freedom to do so," Keough said. "Exercise good judgment, and just follow the guidelines."

Keough stated his opposition to the new restrictions in the video, saying Montgomery County does "not support the closure of businesses, limiting occupancy or restricting the elective surgeries of hospitals." However, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office officials said Jan. 7 they would respond to violations of the state restrictions.

According to Lt. Scott Spencer of the sheriff's office's Administrative Services Division
, deputies' first action in responding to order violations will be to educate individuals of the governor's order in an attempt to gain voluntary compliance. Should a business refuse to comply, however, Spencer said a report will be written and submitted to the appropriate state agency for review.



"We are in a public health crisis, and we will use this opportunity to educate our community while still respecting individual liberties," Spencer said. "We encourage all citizens to take personal responsibility and reasonable precautions in their own life to mitigate possible exposure by following all health department guidelines and orders."

Posted Jan. 6, 3:56 p.m.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include that Trauma Service Areas will be under tightened restrictions until seven consecutive days of remaining below the 15% COVID-19 hospital threshold.

Tightened restrictions on restaurants, bars and elective surgeries have been triggered for Trauma Service Area Q—which includes Montgomery, Harris, Fort Bend and six other surrounding counties.

The new restrictions came after the Texas Department of State Health Services reported the area’s seventh consecutive day of COVID-19 hospitalizations surpassing 15% of total hospital capacity—a threshold set by Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, GA-32.



According to the order, which went into effect Oct. 14, counties in regions meeting this threshold would be required to roll back businesses’ operating capacities from 75% to 50%, and bars would be forced to close, until COVID-19 hospitalizations remain below the 15% threshold for seven consecutive days.



State data shows Trauma Service Area Q’s seven-day streak of having COVID-19 patients exceed 15% of total hospital capacity began Dec. 29. As of Jan. 4, it was at 19.9%.





In a Jan. 6 video posted to social media, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough stated his opposition to the restrictions.



“Please understand, increasing restrictions, rolling back occupancy rates and closing businesses–all it does is give us a slow bleed on the destruction of our local economy,” Keough said. “The reality is, at least for a while, that COVID[-19] is going to remain with us. So here in Montgomery County we're working every day on figuring out ways to manage both. The answer is not to limit or close our business activity.”



In the past week, the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council reported general bed usage by COVID-19 patients in Montgomery County hospitals increased from 220 on Dec. 30 to to 238 at the start of the new year. The number of COVID-19 patients has since decreased to 217 as of Jan. 6. General bed usage has stayed below the county’s operational capacity of 1,275 since March 2020.



ICU bed usage by COVID-19 patients in the county, however has increased since Dec. 30, from 42 patients to 56 on Jan. 6. General ICU bed usage has remained close to the county’s capacity of 175, however, starting at 162 on Dec. 30, and even reaching 172 on Jan. 3. ICU general bed usage has since decreased to 163 as of Jan. 6.

Danica Lloyd and Eva Vigh contributed to this report.

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