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Austin business capacity rolls back to 50% due to rising hospital numbers

Sunday marked the seventh day in a row of COVID-19 patients exceeding 15% of hospital capacity.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin area on Sunday reached its seventh consecutive day of COVID-19 patients exceeding 15% of hospital capacity, which, under an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott, triggers local businesses and retailers to roll back capacity from 75% to 50%.

Personal care and beauty services that maintain at least six feet of social distancing between work stations do not have to limit capacity to 50%. This includes cosmetology salons, hair and nail salons, massage establishments, tanning salons, tattoo and piercing studios, hair removal and treatment services. 

This rollback does not apply to businesses like religious services, local government operations, child care services, youth camps, recreation sports programs for both youth and adults, public or private schools, or drive-in concerts, movies or similar events.

As of Sunday, COVID-19 patients made up 18.9% of total hospital capacity in the Austin area.

The Austin metro area is a part of Trauma Service Area O. TSA O's hospitalization rate surpassed 15% on Jan. 3 and has been increasing since. It includes local counties like Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and more.

On Wednesday, Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said local leaders were monitoring the situation in case rollbacks would be warranted.

“It has never been more crucial for us as a community to reduce the spread of this virus,” he said. “We all must consistently follow the personal protective measures we have been emphasizing throughout the course of this pandemic. Please wear a mask, watch your distance around people outside your household, and wash your hands frequently. This is the best way to keep ourselves and our family members safe and reduce the number of people being hospitalized daily.”

Also this past week, Austin-Travis County health officials have been warning that the area could reach ICU capacity before mid-January. In the event hospitals run out of room, the Austin Convention Center has been prepared as field hospital.

RELATED: Austin-Travis County begins work to open alternate care site at Austin Convention Center

Here's how the rollbacks will be enacted:

According to a Travis County spokesperson, the Texas Division of Emergency Management will send a letter to the elected official (County Judge, and copied to mayors), notifying them the region has reached seven consecutive days of exceeding 15% COVID-19 hospitalizations. Once the TDEM announces that, the governor's GA-32, Section 2, takes effect.

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