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Abbott Closes Bars, Limits Restaurant Capacity As COVID-19 Cases Surge Statewide

Gov. Greg Abbott is closing all bars in Texas at noon Friday as the state sees a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
A sign on the door at the Midtown bar Axelrad, announcing its closure in March after Harris County’s stay-at-home order. Gov. Greg Abbott has again closed bars across Texas, after a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered all bars to close in Texas as the state sees a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

All businesses that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcohol are required to close, though they may continue delivery and takeout, the governor said Friday.

Restaurants, which were previously allowed to operate at 75% capacity indoors, will not be able to exceed 50% starting Monday.

Rafting and tubing businesses must close, Abbott said, and outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.

"As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," the governor said in a press 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.”

Abbott said he wanted the duration of his new order to be as limited as possible.

“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,” the governor said.

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Abbott’s new order came a day after he announced plans to reopen Texas’s economy even further were on pause.

"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” he said in a press release Thursday.

He also suspended elective surgeries and procedures at hospitals in some of the state’s largest counties: Travis, Bexar, Dallas and Harris. The decision was made, Abbott said, to make sure Texas has enough hospital beds to treat COVID-19 patients.

Texas had another record-breaking day Thursday with nearly 6,000 new cases and 4,739 COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

The governor has said that a positivity rate exceeding 10% is a “red flag.” The rate — the precentage of tests that come back positive — was last at 11.8%, the highest level since April 16.

This story has been updated.

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