SHUT DOWN AGAIN: Bars ordered closed in several SE Texas counties

Pooja Lodhia Image
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Bars ordered closed in several SE Texas counties
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry blasted the state of Texas after health officials notified the impacted counties about a return to restrictions. Listen to what he had to say in the video above.

GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Galveston and other counties in southeast Texas are getting new COVID-19 restrictions, a move that was blasted Tuesday by Galveston County Judge Mark Henry.

Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt notified the county that it had reached the threshold that requires tightening restrictions under Gov. Greg Abbott's COVID-19 executive order.

That includes the closure of bars, reducing restaurant capacity to 50% and it cancels most elective medical procedures at hospitals. It impacts counties that belong to Texas Trauma Service Area R, which includes Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, and Orange counties. Businesses from Beaumont to Galveston are impacted by the rollback, though Harris County and Houston are not.

"We saw this coming and sent multiple requests to the state on why they should not rely on the information they had. We did not receive any acknowledgment of our request," Henry said. "We have tried to explain that Galveston County is in a trauma service area, TSA, that extends from Georgia County to the Louisiana State line up to Jasper, and to try to impose a one size fits all solution for that large of a geographic area is really ridiculous."

"That could make or break a business, especially going into our really, really dry times of January and February in hopes of being able to make it to March," explained James Clark, the President of the Galveston chapter of the Texas Restaurant Association.

Galveston County saw a two-day total of 259 additional new COVID-19 cases, according to the Galveston County Health District data released Monday. A total of 17,686 county residents have tested positive for the coronavirus since mid-March, according to the Texas Dept. of State Health Services COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard reported 200 deaths were to blame on the virus as of Tuesday.

SEE ALSO: Number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Galveston County up nearly 300% since late October

Henry said he continues to oppose the new restrictions, which include closing bars and other businesses again, as well as reducing capacity in places like restaurants. Bars and other businesses in regions of the state with high hospitalization rates are supposed to close, according to an order from Abbott that was issued in October.

"Areas with high hospitalizations" means any trauma service area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15%, 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," the order states.

Texas Trauma Service Area R, which also includes Brazoria, Chambers, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton and Orange counties had 248 beds available out of 1,474 beds on Tuesday, including eight in ICUs. About 1,106 people were hospitalized Monday, according to data from TDSHS. Henry disputed those numbers Tuesday.

"It's flawed data," Henry said, without providing proof.

While bars should close, according to the governor's order, Henry said the Galveston County sheriff did not have the resources to enforce it.

"I talked to the sheriff this morning. He has no resources to enforce this. I talked to the district attorney this morning, he cautioned everybody against filing charges because he probably won't take them," Henry said. "The state has its own police in the TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission)."

Galveston and Texas City have seen 2,595 and 2,340 cases, respectively, and Friendswood has seen a total of 1,014 cases, according to GCHD data. More than a quarter of the total cases - 4,000, or 28% - have been in League City, and three in every 10 of the 1,427 currently active cases are in League City.

Follow Pooja Lodhia on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.