Texas Governor Greg Abbott is backtracking after a cavalier re-opening of the Lone Star state as covid-19 cases surge On Friday, Abbott announced that all bars will shut back down and that restaurant capacity will be lowered to 50 percent.
“At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbot said in a news release. “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.”
Before this announcement, bars in Texas were allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity and restaurants at 75 percent capacity. But this mandate was often ignored: As of Monday twelve Texas bars from El Paso to Dallas temporarily lost their liquor licenses for violating covid-19 restrictions. Bars are a covid-19 Petri dish, and while managers claim to do the best they can to limit crowd size and keep parties six feet apart, it’s a little hard to believe once you get a look at some of the packed bars.
Still, there are other bar owners in Texas who are fretting over the fact that the state re-opened so callously, offering mixed messages and few mandates.
“The fact that we did it so quickly and with so little thought, and so little planning, is that now we’ll very likely have to close again,” said Houston bar owner Michael Neff told the Associated Press earlier this week. “So long-term thinking suggests if you do it correctly you make sure that everybody plays by the rules. If that doesn’t happen, and we have to close again, then a lot of places that probably could have made it, now won’t, because I can’t keep doing this.”
Florida, Arizona, and California are seeing a surge in covid-19 cases, but the scene in Texas is one of the worst. From the Texas Tribune:
On Thursday, Texas saw another record number of new cases Thursday — 5,996 — as well as hospitalizations — 4,739. The hospitalization number set a record for the 14th straight day. There has also been rapid rise in the state’s positivity rate, or the ratio of tests that come back positive.
As of Thursday, there have been a total of 125,921 covid-19 cases and 2,249 fatalities in Texas.
This comes after weeks of reassurance from Governor Abbott, who repeatedly told Texans that the state had covid-19 under control. He even held instituting a stay-at-home order until early April, and it only lasted 28 days, the shortest in the nation. And things only got messier from there.
From the New York Times:
Since businesses began reopening in early May, Mr. Abbott has gone head-to-head with the mostly Democratic mayors in the state’s largest cities, who have begged for more power to impose tougher restrictions. At first, Mr. Abbott’s approach was to let local officials handle the response. Then he shifted course, issuing an executive order that made it clear the state’s coronavirus rules nullified local ones. His stance shifted again in recent days when he allowed cities and counties to require businesses to have customers and employees wear masks and to fine business owners who did not comply.
Democratic critics who had been fighting for more local control said the governor’s turnabout came too late. Some Republicans saw Mr. Abbott’s move as throwing business owners under the bus.
And now, thanks to this abject failure of leadership, Texas is a covid-19 hotbed. No wonder 18 family members in Texas got covid-19 at a surprise party. You almost—almost—can’t blame them when a flurry of mixed messages, inconsistencies, and chaos meets Texans at every turn.