Health services to halt elective surgeries
A surge in COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the area will force businesses in both Burnet and Llano counties to cut back their capacity to 50 percent, beginning immediately, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
It also means local bars and similar establishments which have a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) permit, but cannot be identified as restaurants, likely have to close until hospitalizations for COVID-19 no longer make up at least 15 percent of all hospitalizations in the area for at least seven straight days.
“I have asked (health department officials) what the duration would be and we are not sure, but we would have to have a sustained level of a number of days below the threshhold before we could get back above the 50 percent capacity,” said Burnet County Judge James Oakley.
DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt sent letters Sunday, Jan. 10, to each of the county judges in the 11 counties which make up Trauma Service Area 0 to inform them TSA 0 “meets the definition of a high hospitalization area and so may not conduct elective surgeries or reopen to the higher levels allowable under GA-32.”
It is GA-32, issued on Oct. 7, 2020, by Governor Greg Abbott, which establishes the definition of a high hospitalization area as “any Trauma Service Area (TSA) that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15
According to GA-32, “in areas with high hospitalizations ... any business establishment that otherwise would have a 75 percent occupancy or operating limit may operate at up to only 50 percent.”
GA-32 also states people “shall not visit bars or similar establishments” that are located in counties which are in high hospitalization areas, though bars can still offer “drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options for food and drinks ... to the extent authorized by TABC.”
Counties are able to sign a waiver allowing them to continue to operate at 75 percent occupancy if they could prove they had only 30 or fewer new cases of COVID-19 in the past two weeks. However, neither Burnet County (78 cases) nor Llano County (74 meet that metric.
“At this time, Llano County does not meet this threshold; therefore, effective January 11, 2021, all businesses operating in Llano County must comply with GA-32,” Llano County Judge Ron Cunningham said in a statement.
As of Sunday, Jan. 10, Burnet County has had 30 fatalities and currently has 198 active cases with 1,848 recovered, 145 currently probable and 1,931 confirmed cases. Llano County has had 522 confirmed cases with 209 probable, 150 active, 559 recovered and 22 fatalities, according to the DSHS website.
Oakley said he hopes residents understand the need to “be more careful now than ever” as there are higher incidences of COVID-19 infections being reported than there was last year and there has even been several new, more contagious strains of the novel coronavirus spotted in the United States.
“Don’t give up now,” Oakley said. “We are in a footrace and we all want to cross finish lime. That means we must be careful in our everday interactions. Wear masks when you have to be around people or in establishments and play it safe.
“I know it is tough and everyone gets tired of it. No one is trying to establish a new normal, but we must take the necessary precautions if you want to do your best not to contract the disease. If you are out by yourself on the hiking trail, you don’t have to wear one. If you have to go inside a building to shop or conduct business, put the dang mask on.”