Abilene restaurants dealing health precautions on their own as COVID-19 cases continue to rise


ABILENE Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Though the Hendrick Community Safety Dial does not have any direct effect on the public, the metrics it’s based on are the same that would have decided capacity levels and operating practices for restaurants and bars just months ago.

With hospitalization rates of COVID patients at or above 15% for Trauma Service Area D (TSA-D) for more than six days now, Hendrick has set their dial to level six, also considered the Emergency level. Due to Governor Abbott’s most recent executive order, no shut downs or restrictions will result from this, an outcome that has Abilene businesses fending for themselves.

“We really feel like we’ve been left out in the COVID forest without a flashlight, without a map, without any kind of direction or leadership,” says general manager and co-owner of The Local, Gabriel Stokes.

When this hospitalization rate was first met in early December 2020, restaurants were mandated to operate as to-go only. The Local independently made this decision a day before that was announced.

“We just said, ‘Look, here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to start offering to go and delivery only just to keep our team members safe, to keep their families safe, to keep our guests safe,'” said Stokes.

Similarly, Krua Thai moved to a carryout-only model early on in the pandemic, even requiring masks and temperature checks before entry. They say these were decisions they made not out of fear, but out of consensus.

“Before we do temperature, before we put the sign on the wall, even before COVID, I always ask my employees, ‘What do you want to do?'” says Krua Thai Owner Thida Arat.

These business say the lack of direction and support from state leadership has resulted in pushback from the community when trying to enforce their rules.

“They can say whatever they want to say, you know what I mean? Because they have right to say. The same thing I have the right to tell them what to do in here,” Arat says.

“I’m not just relying on someone to come and save me, at the same time that’s exactly what those elected officials have been elected to do is to lead their constituents in a manor that’s logical and intelligent,” said Stokes.

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