CEDAR PARK, Texas - A steady rain fell on shopping centers across the Austin-metro Monday. It was the first day of allowing capacity inside businesses to increase to 75%.
Despite that, there were a lot of open parking spaces and room to shop. Shelby Starnes, who came out form a big box store said nothing looked different inside and was not worried about the capacity increase.
“I have no problem with it at all,” said Starnes.
At the Hunan Chef Restaurant in Cedar Park carry out only is still the rule. Getting patrons back in chairs and at tables is important for owner Dinh Tran. But he is in no rush to do it. "I will soon, there about two weeks, earlier in October,” said Tran.
At Mouton’s Bistro & Bar, limited space still means limited sales according to general manager Kevin Koller. "We have to distance every other table, so no matter what percentage it is, if it’s not 100% it doesn't benefit us,” said Koller.
On a rainy day, losing 5 patio tables only adds to the pain. Koller believes they can expand to 100% capacity and be safe. "I believe we can if we still do our masks and proper procedures of hand sanitizing and washing all the menus and things we are using,” said Koller.
The expansion order announced by Governor Greg Abbott last week also increases capacity at libraries and museums. Gyms can also bring in more people and can offer exercise classes. Some continue to limit access by requiring reservations like at the Cedar Park Rec Center.
Reducing the risk of exposure is why Quanna Garrett limits her trips from home. She has family members with asthma and they've been in a self-imposed quarantine since March. "Me and my family have been more existing, more than living, because of this situation, so while I'd love for us to be able to come out, I think it’s going to be ever individual family, so because we have asthma we tend to be safer right,” said Garrett.
Positive tests in people with medical conditions and exposures recently to students who have returned to schools prompted Austin Mayor Steve Adler to criticize the expansion order. Adler stated; "I'm concerned and with the Governor had waited until these numbers were lower."
Governor Abbott promised that state officials will watch for COVID-19 spikes. And where they occur the capacity rule will be scaled back. "If the COVID hospitalizations are less than 15% of all hospitalizations, for 7 consecutive days than the region is safe enough to allow for additional openings, on the other hand, if COVID hospitalizations rise above 15% for 7 consecutive days then course correction is going to be needed,” explained Governor Abbott on Thursday.
The state has had to backtrack earlier this year.
It took place in June after a big spike in COVID19 cases. The increase brought about a reduction in capacity for restaurants and a crackdown on bars, which remains in place.