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Judge explains how Jefferson County businesses might roll back to 50% occupancy standard

Businesses in Jefferson County and throughout Texas eligible to maintain up to 75 percent of maximum occupancy may soon have to restrict that rate.

Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, which took effect Oct. 14, businesses in an area with high hospitalizations — meaning any “Trauma Service Area” that has had seven consecutive days of COVID-19 patients accounting for more than 15 percent of the total hospital capacity — would be limited to operating at 50 percent occupancy.

Jefferson County belongs in Trauma Service Area R (East Texas and Gulf Coast), which includes Jasper, Newton, Hardin, Orange, Liberty, Chambers, Galveston and Brazoria counties.

COVID-19 patients in Jefferson County have accounted for more than 15 percent of hospitalizations for five straight days, County Judge Jeff Branick said Tuesday. The rate was at 20 percent as of Monday (Nov. 30).

“If we remain above 15 percent [Dec. 1] and [Dec. 2], I think it goes into effect Thursday,” Branick said. “It’s Governor Abbott’s order, not my order.”

Some outdoor areas, events or establishments are presently allowed to operate at no more than 50 to 75 percent of normal limits as determined by the owner, under the executive order.

Branick said he would be on a telephone call with Dr. John Zerwas, University of Texas System executive vice chancellor for health affairs and a medical advisor to Abbott, and Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt on Wednesday morning about the potential restriction of occupancy.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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