Judge Asks Texas Governor to Rollback Reopening as Coronavirus Cases Spike

A Travis County judge is requesting the power to order the Austin, Texas area into another stay-at-home lockdown.

Travis County Judge Samuel T. Biscoe joined several local leaders Monday in urging Governor Greg Abbott to roll back reopenings ahead of the July 4 weekend.
He penned a letter to Governor Abbott Monday saying hospitals in the area surpassed 70 percent capacity and the advice of physicians and health officials is to immediately pull back on the state's reopening process. Biscoe said the county needs to enforce 25 percent occupancy limits and mask requirements as designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition to local epidemiologists, infectious disease doctors, hospital executives and physician leaders, the Travis County judge is joined by Texas Democrats in Congress urging the governor to let cities and counties issue mandatory stay-at-home orders should the latest outbreak worsen.

JUST IN: Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe joins growing chorus of local leaders asking Governor Abbott to rollback reopenings, including mandating 25 percent occupancy and requiring masks. pic.twitter.com/w5L4qMQ9q0

— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) June 29, 2020

Eight Democrats on Monday issued a statement to Abbott noting there are currently no mandatory requirements for face masks in public or caps on capacity in restaurants, bars or any other business. Gatherings of up to 100 people are still permitted and beaches remain open just days ahead of the July 4 weekend, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Travis County has 8,461 confirmed coronavirus infections, with 5,726 people who have recovered and 117 deaths. Currently, 351 people are hospitalized in Austin area hospitals with COVID-19, including 114 people in intensive care units and 60 more on ventilators.

Biscoe warned that Travis County testing is nowhere near levels necessary to help identify and curb new coronavirus cases. He thanked Abbott for rolling back occupancy 50 percent last Friday for most businesses in addition to closing bars in many parts of the state.

But Biscoe cautioned, "In summary, the rapid increase in cases has outstripped our ability to track, measure and mitigate the spread of disease ... allow the major metropolitan areas to roll all the way back to Stay Home orders based on worsening circumstances."

The capital city may be returning to stay-at-home orders soon because new coronavirus cases are almost hitting levels which local health officials cautioned may overwhelm hospitals. Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott told the Austin City Council Monday he's "on the verge" of recommending state officials push for a return to lockdown, but legal battles are ongoing between state and local level officials over authority to do so, the Austin American-Statesman reported Monday afternoon.

Escott said Travis County recorded a 372 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases since the start of June - something on par with other cities in Texas, including Harris County, which surrounds the greater Houston area.

austin texas stay home order
A Travis County judge is requesting the power to order the Austin, Texas area into another stay-at-home lockdown. SERGIO FLORES / Contributor/Getty Images