In spite of falling COVID numbers, Harris County remains under a "stay home" code red and Judge Lina Hidalgo refuses to lift her order keeping bars closed.
Word came down from Gov. Abbott's office this week that bars could reopen and restaurants can increase capacity to 75-percent in Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Galveston and Brazoria counties.
“If we were to say alright come one come all, time to encourage more gatherings once again, those hospitalization numbers would begin to climb up once again,” Hidalgo responded Monday.
She later released the following statement:
“We’re far from life back to normal in Harris County. We’re still seeing hundreds of positive cases per day, a sky-high positivity rate, and high hospitalization percentages that cannot be the starting point for yet another wave. Every time there has been a reopening, that has been followed by a spike in hospitalizations. If we start the climb now, we’d be starting from the highest starting point ever, an unacceptable and dangerous proposition. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines we’re inching closer to the finish line of this pandemic - now is not the time to reverse the gains we’ve worked so hard to achieve.”
County judges have the authority to keep bars closed, but Texas Restaurant Association President and CEO Emily Williams Knight says it’s unfair to continue punishing these small business owners.
“We're 11-and-a-half months in and you cannot find a single breakout in a restaurant of COVID 19,” she says. “We have really been disproportionally, I think, hurt in this through the media and public narrative.”
Knight credits the COVID vaccine and treatment protocols for bringing the hospitalization and death rates down significantly in recent weeks.
“All of our major cities now are 75 percent capacity and sitting right there,” she says. “So really good news. Frankly the hospitalization numbers are the lowest we've seen since November.”