Local NewsTravis County Bars Cannot Reopen, Judge Sam Biscoe Says

After Gov. Abbott said bars could reopen at 50% capacity if allowed by the county, the Travis County judge opted out of the possibility.
October 14, 2020
Austin’s nightlife scene will have to wait even longer to open its doors. Despite the governor’s partial lifting of the closure restriction, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe will not allow bars to reopen.

Governor Abbott announced last week that bars, within areas that have a coronavirus hospitalization makeup of 15 percent or less, may open at 50 percent capacity with the approval of the local county judge.

Travis County joins the ranks of Dallas and Harris Counties while Tarrant and Collin Counties will allow the reopening.

Biscoe said in a statement, “Based on the memo from Dr. Mark Escott, COVID-19 continues to be a threat to Travis County. In the past ten days, Travis County has seen an increase in hospitalized individuals, ICU bed utilization, and ventilator use. As such, I cannot in good conscience allow bars to reopen at 50% of capacity at this time. The risk to our public health is too great, especially now that students of all ages have returned to the classroom.”

Adding context to the decision, Escott’s memo reads, “This data indicates that we may experience an 87% increase in admissions, a 55% increase in hospital bed use, and a 64% increase in ICU bed utilization by November 1, 2020.”

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Abbott has set the marker for a hospital district’s preparedness at 15 percent. Austin’s hospital district, which encompasses more than just the city and Travis County, is well below that at 2.3 percent.

Data from the Department of State Health Services

Travis County remains in “Stage 3.” Escott cites recent “7to 10-day trend” as a cause for concern. But the hospitalization rate increased from 1.92 percent to 2.3 percent and hasn’t eclipsed three percent since September 14.

The county reported 133 new cases on Tuesday, but the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in Travis county is currently around 75 cases, down from a high of over 500 in July, according to data from the Department of State Health Services.

Biscoe further added, “As we move forward, I will continue to work with Dr. Escott to reevaluate data collected and in fourteen days will determine if Travis County is in a position to safely reopen bars. Until then, I encourage everyone to continue practicing safety measures that will help us reduce the transmission of COVID-19.”

A number of Austin staples have closed permanently due to the shutdowns including Buffalo Billiards and Mugshots, and many more are teetering on the edge.

The forced closures have wreaked havoc on the Live Music Capital of the World’s signature industry, and local officials have shown little sign of letting up.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.

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