Barbarah Martinez

FBCHHS clinical health service director Barbarah Martinez was the first county employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which she received Tuesday at the county annex in Rosenberg. (Photo from Facebook)

By STEFAN MODRICH 

smodrich@fortbendstar.com

The rising COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the Houston region has forced bars in Fort Bend County to close, elective surgeries to be suspended and businesses that were previously open at 75 percent capacity to scale back to 50 percent, per the guidelines outlined in an October executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

In a letter to residents Wednesday, Fort Bend County Judge KP George wrote that the increased social distancing restrictions were triggered “due to crossing the state’s COVID-19 hospitalization threshold for our region.”

Per Abbott’s executive order and the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), the restrictions apply to any Trauma Service Area (TSA) that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID‑19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceeds 15 percent. Fort Bend County is in TSA Q, along with eight other counties that make up Greater Houston. According to TDSHS data, the region crossed the threshold on Tuesday, when its COVID-19 hospitalization rate was 19.9 percent.

In order to loosen the newly increased restrictions for restaurants and other businesses, a TSA must have seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID‑19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity is 15 percent or less.

“At this time, Fort Bend County does not have any local orders; but, we will comply and follow all those mandated by Governor Abbott,” George wrote. “As we get updates from the Governor and State of Texas on their Executive Orders, we will communicate them out with our jurisdictions, partners, and public.”

Vaccine doses administered

Also Tuesday, George announced the COVID-19 vaccine supply the Fort Bend County Health & Human Services Department (FBCHHS) recently received, 1,000 doses, was expected to be enough to provide the two-shot series to approximately 500 people.

The first doses were administered Tuesday to the county’s frontline healthcare workers at the FBCHHS building in Rosenberg, including Barbarah Martinez, the FBCHHS clinical health service director.

A news release from Xavier Herrera, George’s communications director, noted Tuesday that the county had received over 5,000 registrants sign up for a waiting list to receive the vaccine, and had reached its preregistration limit.

The registration system will reopen “once a significant number of registrants are vaccinated, or FBCHHS receives a larger allotment of the vaccine,” according to the news release.

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