Increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations causes officials to scale back

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- We're now 11 months into the pandemic and on a Friday night, things seem the same considering the recent rollback this week after the number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations increased.

"We try to stay safe when we go out. Not a crowded club or anything," said customer Nique Houston.

Most bars are still seeing the same amount of customers and people said they really haven't noticed a major change.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm here happy drinking too. But I'm definitely trying to protect myself," said another customer.

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Harris County could soon be going back to early COVID-19 restrictions after hospitalizations passed the state's threshold, but in neighboring counties, residents say they are putting their foot down.

This weekend, one of the most anticipated events in our area will be going on in-person. The Bridal Extravaganza's organizers said they have specific safety measures in place, which are outlined on its webpage.

Meanwhile, the event manager for Houston First Corporation, the group that works to recruit large meetings and conventions to Houston, issued the following statement:

"Houston First's number one priority is the safety of its staff and participants at any event taking place at the facilities we manage. The Bridal Extravaganza event scheduled to take place at the GRB, January 9-10, 2021 has met all safety protocols established by Houston public health officials, including City Health Director, Dr. David Persse. The event organizer has modified its procedures to make sure the event is as safe as possible for its staff and attendees. The organizer is available to provide specific details on these modified procedures at this year's event. Additionally, Houston First Corp. (HFC) has implemented a number of precautions within the facility to ensure the safety of workers and participants, which include being the first convention center in the country to use the Integrated Viral Protection, a new biodefense air filtration system developed by Medistar. HFC also helped launch Houston Clean, a citywide commitment to enhanced health precautions designed to mitigate the spread of the virus."

"We're able to operate that's a blessing," said owner of The Marquis II, Al Jara.

Jara said it may seem like business as usual to the average person, but he said every day is a constant struggle to keep their head above water.

"Extremely tough. We've had to pivot," he said.

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As those numbers have increased, hospitals had already begun reducing their elective surgeries, prior to the Governor's rollback trigger.

In order to keep his business open, he had to get a food and beverage permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. It requires him to make sure he gets 51% of sales from non-alcohol related business, which he says, is not easy.

"We're on a shot clock. You don't get the food and beverage license forever. You have a limited time to get to 51%," he said. "If you don't, then we go back to being a bar, which means we shut down in Harris County."

He said bar owners are the first to get blamed any time there's a spike in numbers.

"The problem with this rollback [is that] the numbers would have gone down organically because people are not getting together [for the holidays] anymore."

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