One of the reasons you're being asked to wear a mask and practice social distancing during this pandemic is to not only help stop the spread of COVID but to also help to keep hospitalizations down so our healthcare workers can work on those who need help the most.

Apparently, folks are still not listening as Smith County is reporting that COVID patients are starting to fill up area hospitals. Which could mean in some cases that even if YOU don't have COVID but something ELSE that affects you medically, you may not be able to stay at hospital to get treated. That is the whole point of protecting yourself and others.

According to a press release we received on Monday from Smith County Emergency Management & The City of Tyler, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reported that the 19 counties that comprise the Piney Woods Trauma Service Area are now in an “area with high hospitalization,” as defined by Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, the Governor's COVID response plan.

"Areas with high hospitalization” is defined as any “Trauma Service Area that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalized patients as a percentage of total hospital capacity exceed 15 percent”

So what does that mean? It means that hospitals in East Texas are getting close to capacity from dealing with COVID patients alone and business and restaurants in our area could rollback restrictions imposed by Governor Abbott's COVID response executive order signed back in October.

Under GA-32, except for specifically excepted business establishments, businesses that were previously allowed to operate up to 75 percent of their total listed occupancy must now operate at no more than 50 percent of the total listed occupancy. Also, people may not visit bars in “areas with high hospitalization” unless bars are allowed to continue operating drive-thru, pickup and delivery activities.

If enacted, businesses in Smith County along with the following counties will face possible restrictions: Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Franklin, Freestone, Gregg, Harrison, Henderson, Houston, Marion, Panola, Rains, Rusk, Shelby, Trinity, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood.

At the time of this article, Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran is awaiting formal notification from the state and encouraged business owners and citizens to remain vigilant in fighting the spread of COVID.

Do you think that Governor Abbott will rollback restrictions or will allow business to continue?

CHECK IT OUT: 10 Items Might Be in Short Supply This Winter