Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Friday morning in a press release that he was ordering bars to close and reducing the allowed dine-in capacity of restaurants from 75 to 50 percent of their listed indoor occupancy as a means of slowing the recent surge in the spread of COVID-19 in Texas. Bars and "similar establishments that derive 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcohol" must close by noon Friday, though they may continue to offer delivery and takeout service. Restaurants have until Monday, June 29, to reduce their dine-in service.
In addition to the measure dealing with bars and restaurants, the governor ordered river-rafting businesses closed and banned all outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, unless they were specifically authorized by local officials. Earlier in the week, he had empowered local officials to, at their discretion, limit outdoor gatherings over 100. The previous limit had been 500.
The move came as the rate for those testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) in Texas exceeded 10 percent on Thursday and the number of new cases hit 5996. This was the third day in a row that the number of new cases exceeded 5000 and the 10th day in a row over 3000. On June 1, the number of new cases in Texas was 593, and it has trended upward ever since. The number of hospitalizations on Thursday also set a record at 4739, causing some local health officials to express fear that hospital capacity in some major cities could be overwhelmed. On Thursday, the governor renewed a ban on elective surgery and other procedures in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties.
"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," the governor said Friday. "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. We want this to be as limited in duration as possible. … Every Texan has a responsibility to themselves and their loved one to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can."