Due to the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in McLennan and surrounding counties, local health officials and a county judge have scaled McLennan County back to 50% occupancy levels for certain businesses.

McLennan County Judge Scott M. Felton issued a resolution Sunday that will scale back the number of people who can occupy any business at one time, citing Executive Order GA 32.

GA 32 was issued by Governor Greg Abbott on October 8, and allowed certain venues to operate at 75% capacity and bars to reopen. However, the order also allowed for scaling back capacity and closing bars in areas where the hospitalization rate as a percentage of hospital capacity exceeds 15% for seven consecutive days.

"For the past seven days, the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients in
Trauma Service Area M as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15
percent, making it an area with high hospitalizations," Judge Felton wrote Sunday.

As of Sunday, November 29, all restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms, exercise facilities and classes, museums, and libraries in McLennan County were required to once again begin limiting occupancy to 50% of their normal rate.

Elective surgeries have also been suspended.

In an update posted to their website, the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District wrote, "The opt in certification allowing bars to operate also must be decertified due to the hospitalization rate."

Under Gov. Abbott's order, occupancy can return to 75% and bars can operate once Trauma Center M (Bosque, Falls, Hill, Limestone, and McLennan Counties) has seven consecutive days in which the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as a percentage of total hospital capacity is 15% or less.

Judge Felton recently told the Waco Tribune-Herald that there was an upward trend in COVID-19 cases before Thanksgiving, and that officials are expecting more cases in the wake of families having gatherings including people outside of their household to celebrate the holiday.

"Most of the transmission is within family groups, friend groups and close social groups," Judge Felton said. "The effects of that could go on for the next couple of weeks.”

The CDC and other health organizations have recommended limiting holiday gatherings to members of your immediate household to help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, they must know many people won't follow that advice, because the CDC has also issued a list of recommendations to make gatherings as safe as possible.

In our everyday lives, we can all help slow the spread by continuing to wear a mask that fully covers our mouth and nose when we're out in public or at work, or anywhere 6 feet of physical distancing from someone who's not a member of our household isn't practical. Washing and sanitizing hands often and avoiding touching our mouths, noses, and eyes with unclean hands after touching frequently touched surfaces can also help, and we should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces often.

Really, it just comes down to being mindful of what we're doing and being willing to think of others during a public health crisis. It's the holiday season, after all. If this isn't the time for caring about others, when is?

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

20 Words and Phrases That Are So 2020