On Sunday, January 10, 2021, the Governor of Texas announced additional COVID-19-related occupancy requirements and restrictions due to worsening conditions in our region.
Under Governor’s Order GA 32, after a state Trauma Service Area has COVID-19 hospitalizations that represent 15% of overall hospitalizations for seven consecutive days, additional restrictions on businesses and hospitals must occur. Austin-Travis County is part of Trauma Service Area O, which encompasses 11 counties in Central Texas.
The restrictions outlined in GA 32 are required by the Governor’s Order and are not optional for local jurisdictions. Businesses, including restaurants and retail, are required to move from 75% occupancy to 50% occupancy, and hospitals are required to stop elective surgeries.
“We are incredibly concerned that our area has hit the hospitalization rate which has resulted in the rollback on the occupancy of businesses,” said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “The projections have been concerning for some time, and this is just the latest reminder that Austin-Travis County is experiencing a deadly surge in cases as a result of holiday gatherings and gatherings thereafter. The additional restrictions placed by GA 32 alone, though, will not be enough to counterbalance this surge in cases and hospitalizations. In other jurisdictions that hit this point prior to the Austin area, cases and hospitalizations continue their uncontrolled rise. Dallas/Fort Worth is at 27%, San Antonio at 22%, and Houston at almost 20% and all three continue to rise. We need every person in this community to understand that exceeding our hospital capacity is now inevitable, but how far we exceed that capacity depends on all of us. Today is the day to decide to stay home and reduce risk to save our hospitals and save lives.”
This announcement comes one day after Austin-Travis County announced the beginning of the activation process for the Alternate Care Site (ACS). The ACS will be activated to take specific COVID-19 low-acuity patients to help relieve stress on local hospitals.
“It is critically important that everyone follow protective measures at this time,” said Stephanie Hayden, Austin Public Health Director. “Wearing a mask, washing your hands, watching your distance, and avoiding gatherings have been lifesaving measures throughout this pandemic. We will not be able to vaccinate or enforce our way out of the surge already happening, so we need to take it upon ourselves to protect our community.”
COVID-19 hospital data for the 5-county Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) can be found on the Austin Public Health COVID-19 dashboards. Historical and raw data can be found on the COVID-19 Data Hub.