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Increase in East Texas COVID-19 hospitalizations could lead to reduced business operations

After seven consecutive days in which hospitalized COVID-19 patients exceeds 15% of hospital capacity, the county must reduce businesses to 50% occupancy.

TYLER, Texas — Tyler hospitals have seen a rise in COVID-19 patients since November, with the peak number of patients at 261 on Nov. 30.

George Roberts, CEO of NET Health, says as of Sunday and Monday, the hospitalization rates exceed 15% of hospital capacity. If the trend continues for seven consistent days, it could affect businesses.

"The Governor's order executive or GA-32, in areas with high hospitalizations, any business establishment that otherwise would have a 75% occupancy, such as restaurants, they operate at only 50% if we go over this level," he said.

Credit: KYTX

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, these are the East Texas counties which would be affected by Tyler's hospitalization rate: 

  • Smith County
  • Anderson County 
  • Camp County
  • Cherokee County
  • Franklin County
  • Freestone County 
  • Gregg County
  • Harrison County
  • Henderson County 
  • Houston County
  • Marion County
  • Panola County
  • Rains County
  • Rusk County
  • Shelby County
  • Trinity County
  • Upshur County
  • Van Zandt County 
  • Wood County

Roberts gave a presentation about the COVID-19 statistics during the Smith County Commissioners meeting Tuesday. 

Data showed the seven counties in its region are trending down for daily new cases. He feels this is misleading due to the holidays and cases are still on the rise.

"With the people not necessarily getting tested right before Thanksgiving or right after Thanksgiving, so we do fully anticipate that this number will go up," he explained.

During the meeting, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said it's up to the community to slow the spread of the virus to help businesses from potentially losing customers.

"Once we get in that seven day time period where we've been overfit over 15%, it's going to take some work by the community to get below 15%," Moran said. "If we want to see that number come down, we need to make good decisions today, and in a season where a lot of folks are close together and just naturally close together. We just want people to do that in a safe manner and that's what we encourage them to do.”

As of Nov. 30, there were nearly 9,500 active cases in the region. Smith County Health Authority Dr. Paul McGaha says people need to ramp up the social distancing measures until the vaccine is rolled out.

"The vaccines are showing to be very effective," McGaha said. "We're in that gap now, between what we're doing per usual and the vaccine rolling in the coming weeks and months."

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