MCLENNAN COUNTY, Texas — McLennan County has ordered that many businesses and facilities return to 50 percent occupancy capacity, citing an increase in the percentage of COVID-19 hospitalizations. According to a release regarding bar re-openings in October from McLennan County Judge Scott Felton, at any time the average goes above 15%, bars must close.
All restaurants, retail stores, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, gyms, exercise facilities and classes, museums and libraries in the county are now being required to go back to 50 percent capacity, the county said in a statement published to its website.
"For the past 7 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 of high hospitalizations," the statement said in part.
"I have put a call out to our chambers of commerce and other business stakeholders to ensure that we are working collaboratively to try and support our local businesses in every way we can," Waco Mayor Dillon Meek said.
The scale-back comes on the heels of a holiday weekend, which saw 12 COVID-19 deaths in McLennan County.
"I'm afraid that the next couple of weeks hold a further increase in the number of cases and after that the number of hospitalizations," Local Health Authority for Waco-McLennan Public Health District Dr. Farley Verner said.
He said the changes with restrictions after crossing the 15% mark, are not likely to show up as a decrease in cases for a few weeks. During that time, he said we are going to be seeing an increase in cases from likely the Thanksgiving interactions.
"The benefit of the increased restrictions may get canceled out in some part," Verner said.
He recommends wearing a mask when interacting with virtually anyone outside of your home.
"That's going to go a much longer way towards affecting the epidemic then changing the restrictions of occupancy can do," Verner said.
Dr. Verner went on to say, occupancy changes and bars closing is going to help, but it is not the whole answer.
Read the full statement posted to the McLennan County website.
More information on COVID-19 testing can be found here.