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Austin and Travis County Restaurants Can Go Back to 75 Percent Dining Capacities

The increase from 50 percent capacity comes as hospitalization rates in the areas remain below 15 percent

A masked serving brings a burger to a masked diner
A masked serving brings a burger to a masked diner
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.

Austin and Travis County restaurants are no longer required to reduce indoor dining capacities to 50 percent as of January 30, because the city and county’s hospitals aren’t as packed as they were earlier last month.

The COVID-19-related hospitalization rate in the region — as part of the Trauma Service Area O as designated by the state, which includes 10 other nearby counties — has fallen below 15 percent for seven days straight. This means that the Department of State Health Services canceled capacity restrictions that were tied to higher hospital rates. Now, restaurants in Austin and Travis County can go back to operating with 75 percent indoor capacities, as allowed by state orders.

However, at the same time, Austin and Travis County are still in Stage 5 of its COVID-19 risk-based guidelines, because the seven-day average of new hospital admissions related to coronavirus is still high. These recommendations including asking restaurants to stop all dine-in services, or, at least, stop indoor dining and limit outdoor dining areas to 50 percent capacities. Takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery services are preferred.

“This is a clear sign that the COVID-19 situation in our region is improving,” says Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott in a press release, but he still urges caution. “We cannot let up now. Let us be the leaders on how a community flattens a curve and keeps it flat. With less restrictions, comes more responsibility. We must continue to stay home and reduce risk to save lives.”

Earlier in January, Austin and Travis County restaurants were required to reduce indoor capacities to 50 percent because of the consistent elevated numbers of hospitalizations related to the novel coronavirus.

Travis County’s seven-day average of new hospital admissions is currently 72, with over 5,000 active cases as of January 31. The county’s positivity rate is 12.7 percent as of mid-January.

These hospitalization-related rollbacks are part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order issued in the fall. 17 other trauma service areas in Texas still remain in these restrictions, including the San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth areas.