HOUSTON - Harris, Fort Bend, and Montgomery Counties are among nine counties in the region that must now scale back after hitting a threshold of hospitalizations. For the last seven days in a row, 15% or more of all hospital beds in the region have been occupied by COVID patients.
Per Governor Abbott’s orders, when a region reaches that threshold, bars must shut down, restaurants must reduce capacity from 75% to 50%, and elective surgeries must pause.
However, thousands of bars across the state have already changed their liquor license to reopen as restaurants.
"This is a wakeup call for us. This is the last wakeup call we might get," said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
During a news conference, Hidalgo made yet another plea for Houstonians to do their part to help lower the surge in COVID-19 cases.
Tuesday marked the seventh day in a row where Coronavirus hospitalizations were at 15% or more, prompting rollbacks.
But Hidalgo doesn’t think the state’s order will be enough.
"We need the trajectory to dramatically change. Do I think folks should be going to a restaurant or a bar that is open at 75% capacity, 50% capacity? A bar that is open through the loophole that we know exists? No. Nor do I think that should have been happening," Hidalgo said.
According to a spokesperson with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, to date, 3,100 bars across the state have been approved to reclassify their license to operate as restaurants. In the Houston area, roughly 850 have been approved and in Harris County, 640.
Among those bars now considered restaurants are Pitch 25 and East End Backyard, owned by former Houston Dynamo star, Brian Ching.
"Being grouped in obviously with those bad actors is difficult. We are trying to do everything we can do to open in the right way," Ching said.
Ching says he worries about the next few months. Although he believes the end is in sight, Ching said both his bars haven’t been making much revenue. At this point, Ching said they're operating for the livelihoods of their employees.
"We had about a 60% drop from 2019 to through this year. It's not like we're out there making money, you know. We're keeping it afloat for our employees so they can be paid," Ching said.
The rollbacks have been met with opposition.
In a tweet posted Tuesday, Congressman Dan Crenshaw called the rollbacks "unconstitutional."