Hidalgo County bars can open at 50%, businesses at 75%

Declining COVID-19 hospital rate cited

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez signed an order permitting bars and businesses to operate at 50% and 75% capacity, respectively, beginning Wednesday — news which comes after virus hospitalizations across the county have been trending downward.

In the first week of the year, Hidalgo County’s hospitalization rate for COVID-19 was above 15% for seven consecutive days, prompting the state to consider the region a “high hospitalization” area and businesses had to drop to 50% capacity.

There currently are 215 people fighting COVID-19 in local hospitals, nearly half of the number hospitalized on Feb. 1 when 417 were in hospitals, according to the county’s coronavirus dashboard. The largest number in hospitals was 471, according to a Jan. 25 county report.

Cortez’s order, which was announced in a news release Tuesday, will allow businesses such as museums, libraries, child-care services and movie theaters to operate up to 75% capacity.

“The combination of vaccinations and adherence to facial coverings and social distancing has lowered our hospitalization numbers,” Cortez said in the release. “Although this is a step in the right direction, I urge our county residents to remain vigilant and continue to uphold the safety measures set forth by medical experts.”

Meanwhile, bars and similar establishments that receive a majority of their income — more than 51% of their profits — from alcoholic sales can operate at 50% capacity.

Additionally, under the order, gatherings held indoors and outdoors of groups of more than 10 people is prohibited.

Also on Tuesday, the county announced eight more deaths due to COVID-19, raising the death toll to 2,603.

County officials also announced 616 new cases of the virus in a separate news release, bringing that total to 74,041.

Of the new cases, 268 are confirmed, 345 probable and three suspected.

Additionally, 652 more people were released from isolation, leaving 1,874 active cases in the county. So far, 69,564 people have recovered from the virus.

Of the 215 people currently hospitalized, 113 are in intensive care units.