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Travis County Judge Re-Ups Decision to Keep Bars Closed

The seven-day average of COVID-19-related hospital admissions and cases have doubled since early October

Travis County bars have to remain closed for now
Travis County bars have to remain closed for now
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

Travis County bars must remain closed because of the increasing average of COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the area. The ongoing decision comes from Interim Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe under the advice of Interim Health Authority-Travis County Dr. Mark Escott.

This decision stands through November 17, which is when Biscoe will leave his position. New Travis County Judge-elect Andy Brown will take over the job at that point.

In a statement, Biscoe writes that the seven-day averages of new hospitalizations have slightly more than doubles since October 4th, increasing from 12 percent to 25.7 percent as of November 9. He urges people to continue practicing social distancing measures in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.

In a separate statement, Dr. Escott points to the increasing moving average of new coronavirus-related admissions in the county. Likewise, “there has been a doubling of the moving average of new cases and ICU admissions over the same period and a significant increase in the COVID-19 positivity, which is currently over five percent.” He again cited the recent COVID-19 surges in cities across Texas, including El Paso, which point to a “very concerning picture” for Texas and Travis County this and next month. Texas has had one million cases of the novel coronavirus, as reported by Houston Chronicle, the first state to reach that high number.

During a press conference earlier this week, Escott warned that there should be more concern over the likelihood of a concern of a surge of cases and hospitalizations in the coming months. He specifically expressed that he hoped Texas Gov. Greg Abbott would revert the restaurant indoor dine-in capacity to 50 percent from the current 75 percent maximum, as a way of further decreasing spread

This is the third time the pair has re-upped this decision to keep Travis County bars closed amid the pandemic. It comes almost a month after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott left the decision to reopen bars in the state to the respective county judges. Judge Biscoe and Dr. Escott outright declined to allow bars to reopen in Travis County from the beginning, while many other judges have allowed bars to reopen in their areas.

While bars technically have to remain closed because they make more than half of their sales from alcohol, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission made it easier for these businesses to apply for restaurant permits. This can be done by expanding on-site kitchens and ramping up food sales, partnering with a food truck, or selling prepackaged foods, or recalculating sales by nixing to-go orders.