Austin-area businesses now under new 50 percent capacity limit

People continued to shop at stores and eat at restaurants Monday, although it was not business as usual. Capacity at locations across the Austin metro health region is now limited to 50%.

Having a lot of empty tables in the dining room, according to Aaron Hegger is a familiar look. "Well it will get me, just by, I'll just get by going to 50%," said Hegger.

The New Awlins Café, according to Hegger, has been below the new limit for the past several weeks. "I can survive, I really can, I mean, I know I can survive, I do good work. My work speaks for itself, not too many people can make Cajun food, so I got the edge on that," said Hegger.



The notification that triggered the rollback came Sunday because COVID-19 hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area O, which includes the Austin metro area, have exceeded 15% of hospital capacity for 7 straight days. The rollback order includes not allowing any elective surgeries.

For the restrictions to ease, the area has to be below 15% hospital capacity for 7 straight days. Counties in Trauma Service Area O include: 

  • Bastrop
  • Blanco
  • Burnet
  • Caldwell
  • Fayette
  • Hays
  • Lee
  • Llano
  • San Saba
  • Travis
  • Williamson

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The new business capacity rule, according to Travis County officials, is not expected to prevent local hospitals from being overrun. State health authority Dr. John Hellerstedt Monday acknowledged the tight race they are in.

"This effort, as the governor said, is unprecedented. We’ve never had to try to vaccinate every person in the state in a short of time as possible, but we’re doing that," said Hellerstedt.

Hellerstedt believes relief will eventually come as more people are vaccinated and as those who get sick have more access to antibody treatments.

RELATED: Nearly 900k Texans have been vaccinated; state releases list of vaccine hub providers

"Please though, have a sense of patience we will be getting more vaccine, we will be discovering even better ways to administer the vaccine, in a timely way, to everyone who is willing to get it, but we just don’t have that supply yet I can’t say that more emphatically, if we had more there would be more going out we are not holding anything back," said Hellerstedt.

Back in the summer- there were long lines in front of stores and restaurants when occupancy rates were cut in half. We didn't find any now- but at some places - like the Fat Dragon restaurant in northwest Austin the dine-in option is gone. Only take out remains.

RELATED: Data shows discrepancies in Travis County COVID-19 vaccine distribution

"We try to do our best, make everything to go. Everything is good, but it is hard to survive," said owner Nancy Qui.

An effort is currently underway to bring staff into the hospital overflow facility at the Austin Convention Center. Officials tell FOX7 the site should be ready to accept COVID-19 patients within the next two weeks.