Guadalupe County businesses are facing new restrictions including reduced capacities and some closures following an increase in hospitalizations in the area.
Restaurants will have to reduce capacity from 75% to 50% and bars will have to close due to the guidelines laid out by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s GA-32 Order.
County officials received information that its trauma service area had exceeded the 15% of hospital capacity of COVID-19 patients for the past seven days.
“The Governor’s Executive Order (GA-32), which went into effect on October 14, 2020, allowed bars to reopen and businesses to operate at 75% capacity, except in areas with high COVID-19 hospitalization rates,” a news release from the county said. “The Order defines areas with high hospitalizations as ‘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 percent.’”
Guadalupe county is part of the larger Trauma Service Area P which encompasses 22 counties — including Comal and Bexar counties — in which the high hospitalization rate triggered the restrictions.
“We (the Trauma Service Area P) were in the low 15%,” Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher said. “The highest day was in the low 16% and it went back down. It’s not like we’re at 20-25%, we’re close to that 15% mark and it will probably stick around that through the holidays and about 10 days after. We do have the opportunity over the next couple of weeks to see that come down, but I think it is still on the upward trend right now.”
Kutscher met virtually Tuesday morning with the mayors of cities within Guadalupe County’s borders to discuss the order.
“I think all of the mayors, including the county personnel, all kind of felt the same way — frustrated that COVID continues on and cases have increased and hospitalizations have gotten to the level they have,” he said. “At the same time, we understand and to be consistent with the governor’s order and all of the restrictions that are being put in place for the benefit and the safety of the public.”
Comal County announced their move to go forward with the restrictions on Monday.
All of the cities plan to move forward with following the restrictions.
The 50% capacity applies to retail establishments, restaurants, bars that are operating as restaurants, office buildings and manufactureres.
There are no occupancy limits for religious services, local government operations, child-care services, youth camps, recreations sports programs, or educational facilities. Businesses that can operate safely at workspaces at least 6 feet apart, like salons, barber shops and massage establishments, are also not limited.
Several establishments changed their licensing from bars to restaurants and are excluded from having to close, but they will have to reduce their capacity to 50%, Kutscher said.
The remaining bar-only establishments in the unincorporated portions of the county will have to close, which is not a decision Kutscher wants to make. However, those offering drive-thru, pick-up or delivery services can continue their business.
“We’ve seen our Guadalupe County residents and business owners being impacted already since March with closures,” he said. “It is hard to be in a position of conveying the message from the state and governor’s office of now that hospitalization rates have increased you have to close again.”
Kutscher said he sees the beneficial impact that can come from the governor’s order, but the negative impact it has on businesses and their employees is tough.
“These are our neighbors, these are people that we see and support and hear from when they need help or when something goes wrong,” he said. “It really hits close to home when you have to tell a business owner they can’t be open anymore.”
Once the Trauma Service Area has seven consecutive days below 15% of hospital capacity of COVID-19 patients, the restricts will lift.
Guadalupe County’s COVID rates continue to fluctuate, most recently with a sharp decline in cases.
As of Monday, the Texas Department of State Health Services had Guadalupe County with 341 active cases, 607 probable cases and 1,175 cases pending investigation.
In the Dec. 23 update from the state, Guadalupe County had 606 active cases and a drastic 291 case increase from the day before. DSHS paused updates over the holidays and resumed again on Monday, Dec. 28.
In total, Guadalupe County has seen 6,747 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.