Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shut down bars in Texas again Friday and has ordered restaurants to scale dining rooms back to half capacity amid the state's spike in coronavirus cases. This makes the Republican governor the first to order such a dramatic reversal after reopening.
Abbott did not indicate when bars might be able to reopen, and also ordered rafting and tubing outfitters to close, making it so that local governments must approve outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more. He said in a news release, "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 actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health."
Texas has been a hotspot for coronavirus infections, reporting more than 17,000 confirmed new cases in the last three days, marking a record high of 5,996 positive tests Thursday, according to the Associated Press. That day, a record number of 4,739 people were also hospitalized for COVID-19. Texas' rolling infection also reached 12 percent, which it had not seen since mid-April when the state had instituted a broad-reaching lockdown. "As I said from the start if the positivity rate rose above 10 percent, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Abbott said.
Before Abbott's announcement Friday, bars were able to operate at 50 percent capacity and restaurants at 75 percent capacity. The governor is also seeking to free up hospital space for coronavirus patients, banning elective surgeries in four of the state's biggest counties. "We want this to be as limited in duration as possible. However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part," Abbott said. "Every Texan has 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."
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, also a Republican, is another governor pedaling back reopening plans following a spike in his state. With a third of its total coronavirus patients (19,585 people) testing positive in the last week, Ducey announced that people should stay home and consider the reopening process "on pause" as hospitals grow closer to capacity.