Bars across Texas are scheduled to reopen today, but Travis County will have to wait a little longer to join the party. In a last-minute statement issued on October 14, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe announced that bars in the county will not reopen due to a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.
Judge Biscoe cited a recent memo from Austin Public Health interim medical director Dr. Mark Escott as the reason for the decision.
"In the past ten days, Travis County has seen an increase in hospitalized individuals, ICU bed utilization, and ventilator use. As such, I cannot in good conscience allow bars to reopen at 50 percent of capacity at this time," the judge wrote. "The risk to our public health is too great, especially now that students of all ages have returned to the classroom."
According to the Austin-Travis COVID-19 dashboard, which includes data for Travis, Williamson, Hays, Caldwell, and Bastrop counties, 90 people are currently hospitalized with the novel coronavirus. Of these patients, 31 are in the ICU and 21 are on ventilators.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that bars across the state would be allowed to reopen at a 50-percent capacity following a months-long shutdown. The governor said he would leave it to the counties to ultimately make the decision.
In August, TABC loosened restrictions to allow bars to be more easily classified as restaurants. As a result, some Austin bars have added food options to their business model, and have reopened in recent weeks.
In his statement, Judge Biscoe says he will work with Dr. Escott and reevaluate the data in 14 days.
"Until then, I encourage everyone to continue practicing safety measures that will help us reduce the transmission of COVID-19."