Gov. Abbott orders Texas bars closed as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations spike

3 months ago 20
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June 26 (UPI) -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday ordered the closure of bars across the state as part of a series of measures taken to stem a rising tide of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

In an executive order, Abbott shuttered bars and "similar establishments that receive more than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages."

They were required to close at noon Friday, but allowed to remain open for delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages.

Texas bars were initially allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity June 11 as part of Abbott's Phase 3 guidelines for reopening of the state's economy.

Abbott also ordered restaurants to limit dine-in service capacity to no more than 50 percent beginning Monday, while banning most outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people without prior approval from local governments.

The clampdown came after the state's positive-test rate surged to 11.7 percent Thursday. Abbott warned earlier this month that a rate about 10 percent would trigger new restrictions.

More than 4,700 new COVID-19 patients were admitted to Texas hospitals Thursday in a 14th consecutive day of record-high hospitalizations. Nearly 6,000 new cases were diagnosed, also a record daily high.

"At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars," the governor said in an issued statement. "The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and enhance public health."

Saying he wanted the closures to be "as limited in duration as possible," Abbott reminded Texans they have a "responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can."

His actions were seen as a reversal from his stated position on Monday, when he declared that slowing down Texas' economic reopening "will always be the last option."

Abbott's actions came as the United States registered more than 40,000 new infections in the previous 24 hours, setting a new record for cases recorded in a single day.

The surges were most pronounced in states in the South and West, including Texas, Florida, Arizona and California.

In Florida, the number of new COVID-19 cases easily surpassed the daily record Friday as nearly 9,000 infections were reported -- a 62 percent increase over the previous record of 5,508 reported Wednesday.

The jump in new cases has come after Gov. Ron DeSantis instituted a Phase 2 economic reopening June 5 under which bars and nightclubs are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity.

In Arizona, health officials reported more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases for the fifth time in eight days Friday. The total of 3,428 new infections was the second-highest ever recorded in the state.

Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday implored residents to take more precautions, including staying home except when necessary and wearing face masks in public.

"The rate of the spread of this virus is unacceptable and it is time for us to step up our actions and our personal responsibilities regarding this virus," he said.

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