TEXARKANA, Texas (KTAL/KSHV) – As of Monday, all bars in Bowie County are closed, restaurants must operate at 50 percent capacity and all elective medical procedures have been halted by order of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Bowie County Judge Bobby Howell says he was notified Saturday by the Texas Department of State Health Services that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area F, which includes Bowie County, have exceeded 15 percent of capacity for at least seven consecutive days, triggering the tightened restrictions under an executive order signed by Abbot in October.
“From day one, I never liked to tell a business that they can’t operate or that they can’t operate at full capacity. But we got to do something to try to slow down this spread,” said Howell.
The order will remain in effect until the area’s COVID-19 hospitalizations remain under 15 percent capacity for seven consecutive days.
One local restaurant, the Mighty Crab, just opened last Wednesday. The initial excitement is gone and replaced with fear worried less traffic will lead to hours being cut.
“Just don’t want our business to slow down because of the 50 percent. That’s our only worry that we will lose customers because of that reason. And that’s one thing we are afraid of just because we just opened up,” said Mighty Crab General Manager Carlissiay Manning.
As difficult as it is, Howell says the step back is an effort to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19. He says the number of cases from Christmas and New Years’ hasn’t hit its peak yet and that Bowie County expects a huge spike by mid to late January.
“It’s going to be harder to get out of it than it was to get in it I think. Because if you have one day above 15 percent it starts over,” said Howell.
To prevent long wait times, restaurants are encouraging residents to order takeout to limit foot traffic and to help keep businesses afloat during this time.
CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System released a statement Monday to seeking to reassure the public that the hospital system is prepared and capable of meeting the increased demand due to COVID, while also continuing to provide elective procedures, “including outpatient surgery for most of our patients as they do not require inpatient care and do not impact our ability to care for COVID patients.”
“We expect to be able to provide a full range of services – not just COVID care. Elective cases requiring inpatient stay will be reviewed for appropriateness,” the statement said.
“Like the entire region and health care facilities across the country, CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System is seeing an increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 and a rise in COVID patients in our hospitals, in some cases reaching their highest levels to date. It is important that the public knows that our medical experts anticipated and planned for these surges, and we are ready to care for patients. This preparation includes closely monitoring vital medical supplies and equipment, as well as evaluating possible expansion of space and beds to care for COVID patients, should the need arise. Most importantly, the Texarkana community should know that CHRISTUS St. Michael remains a safe, healing environment, and we’re continuing to meet the needs of our community.”
Other counties included in TSA-F are Cass, Morris Red River, and Titus Counties in the ArkLaTex, as well as in Delta, Hopkins, and Lamar Counties. Hospitals in all of those counties are now above the threshold of COVID‑19 patients making up 15% or more of total hospital capacity.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is reporting 689 active COVID-19 cases in Bowie County, with 106 new confirmed cases Monday. There is now a total of 3,118 positive cases and 124 deaths reported in the county.
Over in Harrison County, Judge Chad Simms noted Monday that his county has been above the 15-percent threshold for 21 days now and that the latest report from the Texas Department of Health shows a substantial increase in the county’s case count.
“During the summer we averaged around 5-10 cases per day, for the past week we’ve averaged 43 cases per day. We’ve also had another 5 fatalities related to COVID-19. The hospitalization rate for yesterday was 20.58%.”
“I hope these numbers will encourage you to be even more cautious,” Simms said. “The increase in case numbers, fatalities and hospitalizations will only go down if we slow the spread. Avoid crowds, wear your mask & keep your hands clean.”
Harrison, along with Marion, Panola, and Shelby, are also subject to the tighter restrictions for restaurants and bars under Abbott’s emergency order.