Breckenridge Texan

Stephens County under stricter guidelines after COVID-19 hospitalizations in area remain high

Stephens County under stricter guidelines after COVID-19 hospitalizations in area remain high
December 08
16:38 2020

Stephens County businesses will be required to limit customers to 50 percent of their occupancy capacity, beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, Dec. 9, because of the high number of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized in the area. Additionally, bars that have been under the 50 percent occupancy rule will no longer be able to be open to indoor customers.

There are some exceptions to the rule, including churches, which may operate without restrictions by law. However, County Judge Michael Roach and Interim City Manager Scott Dixon requested that churches with vulnerable populations observe strict social distancing or even offer online/virtual services.

The new requirements were announced Tuesday, Dec. 8, via a letter from John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, to Roach.

According to the letter, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32 updates the thresholds for areas with high hospitalizations. The new definition of areas with high hospitalizations is: “Any Trauma Service Area (TSA) that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15 percent, until such time as the Trauma Service Area has seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity is 15 percent or less.”

Under the criteria laid out in GA-32, Stephens County, which is in TSA D, meets the definition of a high hospitalization area and is now subject to additional restrictions.

“Basically, we hit a new mark today, where we had exemptions in the past that allowed us to exempt out of certain governor’s orders, including GA-32; however, hospitalizations are now high,” Roach said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “In Abilene, in our Trauma Service Area D, we were actually at 18 percent yesterday and we’re going to be that or a little higher than that today. So, we’re not even close to 15 percent. We are at 18 percent, and Abilene has no (hospital) beds; Brownwood has no (hospital) beds. They’re just not available in our region.”

Local businesses have been operating at 75 percent capacity for several months because of the county’s relatively low rate of COVID-19 cases. Now, they may not allow more than 50 percent of their occupancy limit into their business at one time.

Also, the new restrictions prohibit elective surgeries in the area and outdoor gatherings with more than 10 people must have permission from the county judge or mayor to take place.

Trauma Service Area D includes the following counties:

  • Brown County
  • Callahan County
  • Coleman County
  • Comanche County
  • Eastland County
  • Fisher County
  • Haskell County
  • Jones County
  • Knox County
  • Mitchell County
  • Nolan County
  • Shackelford County
  • Stephens County
  • Stonewall County
  • Taylor County
  • Throckmorton County

To read the letter from Dr. Hellerstedt, click here.

To read the complete GA-32 order, click here.

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