UPDATE: Coryell County Judge Roger Miller is suspending said Wednesday afternoon that he is suspending the bar closure requirement in his county pending a response from Governor Greg Abbott's office about an exemption for Coryell.
Judge Miller argues that there are only three establishments operating as bars in Coryell County, and that he does not believe they've played a significant role in the increased number of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
"I'm fully aware of the Governor's Order and it's (sic) intent," Judge Miller was quoted as having said in a news release issued by the City of Copperas Cove. "But I have no reason to believe our three bar establishments are significantly responsible for the increased COVID cases in Coryell County or within TSA L."
Judge Miller said GA-32 is a case of a single executive order not being appropriate for all counties, and reiterated that he does not believe the three bars he mentioned - American Legion Post 42 in Gatesville, and Moose Lodge 2029 and Fubar in Copperas Cove - should be penalized.
You may have to check with your favorite bar to see if they are going to be open this weekend. Chances are they will be closed due to the rate of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Bell and surrounding counties.
Well, we knew it was going to happen
, and now it's happened. Judge David Blackburn has received word from the Texas Department of State Health Services that certain bars in the county must close their doors, and restaurants retailers must reduce occupancy from 75% to 50%.
At a news conference Wednesday, Judge Blackburn said bars that hold a mixed beverage permit may not open at this time, but that bars with a wine and beer retailer's permit may open for to-go service only.
When asked for further details about what types of bars were expected to close depending on their permits, Judge Blackburn encouraged bar owners to each out to the TABC
with questions. He shared this email address: Dexter.Jones@tabc.texas.gov
Businesses that must reduce occupancy to 50% include restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, gyms, museums, and libraries. There are exceptions under Gov. Abbott's order, such as businesses considered essential services, churches, child care services, and barber shops and salons that operate with at least 6 feet of distance between working stations.
The mandate is part of Governor Greg Abbott's Executive Order GA-32
, which states that Texas Trauma Service Areas
that report seven consecutive days in which the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients as a percentage of hospital occupancy exceeds 15% must reduce occupancy or close.
Bell County is part of Trauma Service Area L
, which also includes Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, and Mills Counties.
Judge Blackburn spoke about the possibility of acting on GA-32 at a meeting of the Bell County Commissioners Monday morning, but was awaiting official confirmation from the DSHS.
Bell County saw a surge in cases after Halloween and Thanksgiving, but an official with the Bell County Public Health District says the post-Christmas surge was not as bad as expected.
“To be very honest with you I thought our numbers would be far worse than they are coming out of the holiday season," Bell County Public Health District Director Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell told our partners at KWTX
. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel."
However, it's the number of hospitalizations across Trauma Service Area L
that factors into the decision to close or restrict occupancy at businesses. Area L is comprised of Bell, Coryell, Hamilton, Lampasas, Milam, and Mills Counties.
I want to continue to stress to you to wear a face mask and social distance as much as possible to help slow the spread of the virus and bring the hospitalization rate down.
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