Texas and Florida Restricting Bars Amid Coronavirus Surge

Test kits sit on a table as healthcare professional Kenzie Anderson prepares to take a sample at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site Friday, June 26, 2020, in Houston. The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the state.

Test kits sit on a table as healthcare professional Kenzie Anderson prepares to take a sample at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site Friday, June 26, 2020, in Houston. The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the state. AP Photo/David J. Phillip

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Texas bars to close, while a state official said Florida is planning to suspend on-premises alcohol sales. Both states are grappling with trying to control the virus, while allowing businesses to operate.

Bars across Texas will have to close their doors to patrons at noon today under an executive order that Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Friday morning as the state fights to contain a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

“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. Bars had been able to operate at 50% capacity. With the new order, they can stay open for delivery and take-out.

Similarly, an official with Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation said on Twitter on Friday that the state was suspending on-premises alcohol consumption, effective immediately. Florida has also seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases during June.

In Texas, the governor’s directive also mandates that dine-in restaurants operate at no more than 50% capacity beginning on Monday, instead of the 75% level that had been previously allowed under the state’s coronavirus-related restrictions.

Abbott said on Thursday that the state would pause any further reopening of the state’s economy due to the swelling virus numbers. 

“We are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” he said in a statement at that time. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses.”

Abbott’s Friday order also calls for rafting and tubing businesses to close and says that, in general, outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must get local government approval.

The number of hospitalizations in Texas due to Covid-19, the respiratory illness that the virus causes, had reached about 4,700 as of Wednesday, state data show. From April and into the early part of June, hospitalizations had hovered more in the 1,500 to 1,800 range.

In recent weeks, local government officials have ordered businesses to require customers and staff to wear masks, while also urging Abbott to declare statewide mandates. The governor has said he supports the local efforts, and cautions that people should wear masks, but has resisted a state requirement.

Abbott is also emphasizing that he has said since earlier on in the health crisis that if Texas’ positivity rate for coronavirus tests rises above 10%, the state would take additional actions to stop the spread of the disease. On Wednesday of this week, the rate had hit 11.76%.

Overall, Texas has reported nearly 132,000 coronavirus cases and about 2,290 fatalities. Florida has had about 122,600 confirmed cases and 3,400 deaths since March, according to state data. 

Confirmed cases have been climbing this month in Florida. The state reported about 4,700 new cases for the week ending May 27, but over 29,000 for the week ending June 24.

By comparison, New York, which was previously one of the nation’s worst virus hotspots, but has since seen its outbreak ease, has had about 395,000 coronavirus cases and about 31,000 deaths. Nationwide, there have been about 2.4 million cases and 124,000 deaths.

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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