New restrictions on horizon for Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties as COVID-19 hospitalizations remain high

As of Jan. 5, the Texas Department of State Health Services recorded COVID-19 hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area Q–which includes Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties–surpassed the 15% total capacity threshold from Dec. 29-Jan. 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
As of Jan. 5, the Texas Department of State Health Services recorded COVID-19 hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area Q–which includes Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties–surpassed the 15% total capacity threshold from Dec. 29-Jan. 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

As of Jan. 5, the Texas Department of State Health Services recorded COVID-19 hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area Q–which includes Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties–surpassed the 15% total capacity threshold from Dec. 29-Jan. 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties could see public health restrictions tighten as a result of increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to data by the Texas Department of State Health Services.



According to an Oct. 8 executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott that went into effect Oct. 14, counties residing in Trauma Service Areas where COVID-19 hospitalizations have exceeded 15% of total hospital capacity for seven consecutive days will undergo tightened restrictions. Restrictions cited in the order included scaling back business operational capacities, closing bars and pausing elective surgeries.



As of Jan. 5, the DSHS recorded COVID-19 hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area Q–which includes Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties–surpassed the 15% total capacity threshold from Dec. 29-Jan. 4. Community Impact Newspaper previously reported that restrictions will stay in effect until there have been seven consecutive days of hospitalizations under 15% in the TSA.





In a Jan. 5 press conference addressing the COVID-19 hospitalization rate for the area, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said community action is needed to flatten the curve.



“What I want to stress today is that we need the trajectory to dramatically change,” Hidalgo said. “We need our hospitalizations to slow down, to flatten and to go downwards. Currently, none of that is happening; quite the opposite.”



However, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said he opposes increased COVID-19 restrictions that will limit business activity and elective surgeries.



“Increasing restrictions, rolling back occupancy or closing businesses is not the sensible way of limiting or managing the pandemic,” Keough said in an emailed statement to Community Impact Newspaper. “You cannot have a healthy community without a healthy economy.”



New restrictions have already been implemented in Galveston County, as previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper. League City businesses faced tightened restrictions in late December, as the city's restaurants were reduced to 50% capacity, bars were closed and elective surgeries canceled.



Hospitalization data



Jan. 4 data from the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council showed the number of COVID-19 patients in Harris County hospitals doubled since Thanksgiving.



SETRAC reported 2,040 total patients, including 1,538 in general ward beds and 502 patients in intensive care unit beds. This is compared to 1,004 COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thanksgiving Day, which included 690 patients in general wards and 314 in ICUs.



In Montgomery County hospitals, general bed usage by COVID-19 patients increased from 169 patients on Dec. 28 to 238 at the start of the new year. The number of COVID-19 patients has since decreased to 222 as of Jan. 4.



The number of COVID-19 patients in Fort Bend County hospitals increased from 90 on Christmas Day to 140 on Dec. 29, before fluctuating and reaching 155 on Jan. 4, according to SETRAC data.



Shawn Arrajj, Colleen Ferguson and Vanessa Holt contributed to this report.



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