Judge Gossom: Wichita County bars to remain closed

Updated: Oct. 16, 2020 at 4:14 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - Judge Woody Gossom announced his decision today that bars in Wichita County will remain closed.

Bars that are open with a food permit can stay open. Closed bars can obtain the proper permits from the health department and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to reopen.

“I’m only trying to ask your rights to not hurt my rights to try to stay healthy. I don’t believe it’s that much of an imposition,” said Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom.

Judge Gossom compared wearing a mask with putting on a seatbelt.

According to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order last week, the governor delegated to county judges on whether to open bars at 25% or not.

Wichita County officials have released the following press release:

In the Governor’s latest order, without consultation, coordination or clarity, he delegated to the County Judges throughout the state the authority to open any bars that remain closed in their respective counties. His order did not give County Judges the authority to set conditions of opening nor the ability to close bars that were allowed to open but that did not comply with CDC Guidelines or the Governor’s Executive Orders.

Wichita County has seen a significant increase in COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths over the last two weeks. I have conferred with other community elected officials and health agencies to determine the best course of action. Of great concern is the increase in positive COVID numbers. In addition, I have visited with representatives of the TABC and several bar operators. I have received emails and phone calls from concerned citizens.

It is imperative that our citizens realize the importance of wearing masks and keeping social distance. Family gatherings, restaurants and bar/restaurants seem to be significant contributors to this increase in COVID cases to approximately 39% of those being tested. Current positives seem to be sicker than the previous ones, especially those in the hospital.

Upon weighing this information, I have decided to not open bars. Closed bars can seek the appropriate health department and TABC permits for approximately $1000.00 in fees and an approximately ten day processing period. This will allow them to stay open until 2:00 AM as long as they are serving food. Moreover, the increase is those being hospitalized. United Regional is the major hospital in this region and the sole source for the care of truly critical patients. Critical patients go beyond COVID to many other medical needs that are determined as critical. URHCS is at 63 COVID / COVID suspected patients in and out of our county, which is its highest level in the last six months. Due to COVD affected staff, the hospital has reduced its capacity from 280 to 230 with 25% due to COVID. We must realize the seriousness of what we are facing and make it our personal goal to reduce these numbers.

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