Bars across Texas must close at noon Friday per an executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott, who is rolling back his reopening of businesses as Houston and the rest of the state sees a surge in cases and hospitalizations related to COVID-19.
In an order released Friday morning, Abbott also said restaurants must reduce their dine-in seating capacity to no more than 50 percent of their listed indoor building occupancies beginning Monday, June 29. Restaurants previously could operate at 75 percent capacity.
Bars and similar businesses that receive more than 51 of their gross receipts from alcohol sales could previously operate at 50 percent capacity. They can remain open but will now be limited to delivery and to-go services under protocols outlined by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Additionally, Abbott is ordering the closure of all rafting and tubing businesses and prohibiting outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people, unless they are approved by local governments.
Abbott, who on Thursday said he was pausing any further phases of his reopening plan that started in May, said the reason for scaling back Friday is partly because the statewide positivity rate has exceeded 10 percent. That means at least 10 percent of the people tested for COVID-19, the contagious disease caused by the new coronavirus, are receiving positive results.
“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 in a statement. “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 enhance public health. 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. Every Texan has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay 6 feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can. I know that our collective action can lead to a reduction in the spread of COVID-19 because we have done it before, and we will do it again.”
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 131,917 Texans have tested positive for COVID-19, which has caused at least 2,296 deaths in the state. An estimated 74,496 patients have recovered.
Houston and Harris County have reported a total of 27,017 cases, with the disease having caused 353 deaths and 9,314 patients having recovered.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have steady climbed in the Houston area in June, according to the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council, which monitors medical trends in the region. Among 8,802 total patients in Harris County hospitals as of Thursday, 1,231 are COVID-19 patients in general beds, while 476 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care.