Texas orders closure of bars, cuts restaurant capacity as coronavirus cases hit record high

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered all state bars to close on Friday for the second time as Texas tackles a record resurgence in coronavirus cases after a rapid reopening last month.

In addition to bar closings, Abbott, a Republican, said restaurants will need to return to 50% capacity, local governments will have more authority to regulate gatherings of more than 100 people, and rafting and tubes along popular rivers will close.

“For the moment, it is clear that the increase in the number of cases is largely due to certain types of activities, in particular the Texans who gather in bars,” said Abbott. “The actions of this decree are essential to our mission to quickly contain this virus and protect public health.”

Abbott’s order came as the state saw a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases this month. On Thursday, the number of hospitalizations soared to over 4,700, doubling in less than two weeks. The number of positive tests hit a record the same day, reaching almost 6,000 cases, a record.

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Figures include a doubling of the infection rate to over 10% – a brand that Abbott said in May would be a “red flag” in its reopening plan, which at the time, he said, was supported by the White House.

He began easing restrictions in May and accelerated openings amid protests from conservatives and Republican lawmakers across the country in an attempt to get local governments to reopen their devastated economies.

“The doctors told us at the time, and said to anyone who wanted to listen, it would be a disaster. And it has been, “said Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat who is the most senior in the county. ÔÇťAgain, the governor is slow to act. He is now forced to do the things we have been asking him for a month and a half. ”

Abbott warned that more protocols could be implemented if the containment measures fail.

“If we are not able to slow the spread over the next few weeks, then we will have to reassess how open companies are,” he said on Wednesday. “Because if it is not contained in the next two weeks, it will be completely out of control and Texas will have to back down. ”

The chairs are stacked on a table inside The Rustic bar in Houston. The restaurant and bar will be limited to 50% of their capacity after Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Friday that he will close the bars and reduce the restaurant’s capacity to 50% in response to the growing number of cases of COVID-19 in Texas. (Photo AP / David J. Phillip)

Last weekend, Texas began enforcing social distancing guidelines in bars and suspending liquor licenses from many establishments, the Houston Chronicle reported. Abbott said in a television interview on Thursday that closing businesses is only a last resort.

“Our goal is to make sure we prioritize public health and safety,” he said in an interview with KEYE CBS in Austin.

Abbott will join Vice President Mike Pence at a Dallas mega church on Sunday for a “Celebrate Freedom” indoor service. Local officials fear that the event may lead to an increase in infections, even if measures of social distancing are promised.

The Texas GOP is also moving forward with a July convention in Houston, which will not require a face covering.

Florida announced on Friday that it will stop drinking at state bars. The news came as the state reported nearly 9,000 new cases of COVID-19, a record too.

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“Based on the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and non-compliance with previous orders, DBPR has taken steps to suspend sales of alcohol on the premises in bars,” said Halsey Beshears, secretary to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, in a press release. .

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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