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Local business owners baffled at state’s decision to roll back reopening

Business owners in several Houston area counties are facing the reality of new restrictions as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise.

“I thought, ‘We gotta go through this again?” said Tammy Davis, owner of Sweet T’s Diner on W. 2nd Street in Freeport.

For the past five years, Tammy Davis has been serving up home-cooked meals at her restaurant.

“Gov. (Greg) Abbott said he wouldn’t shut the businesses down and all of a sudden we get the news today that we have to shut down to 50% capacity,” she said.

She much prefers to focus on her popular chicken fried steak and beef tips, not counting customers.

“I go home and I worry about my next bill. It’s frustrating to open us up, close us down, open us up, close us down,” said Davis.

Brazoria, Galveston, Chambers, and Liberty counties are all impacted. There are 291 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in what the state designates as a Trauma Service Area, putting the area’s percentage of hospital patients that are COVID patients close to 20%.

When it’s more than 15% for a week, the state’s restrictions kick in.

“Bad policy decisions based on bad data,” said Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, who said the hospitalizations are higher because they get so many patients transported from out of town.

Now, it’s a price Davis believes local business owners like herself will have to pay.

“I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to make a living … and my employees,” she said. “I will not turn a customer down.”

To remove the restrictions, the region must dip below a 15% hospitalization rate for seven consecutive days. What’s hard is the timing of all of this, right in the middle of the holidays, when a lot of business owners count on extra income.