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Bars must shut down at noon today, according to new order from Gov. Greg Abbott

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) — Bars across the state will have to close their doors again after an order was issued by Gov. Greg Abbott as Texas COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

The order issued Friday states that bars and similar businesses that receive more than 51% of their gross revenue from alcoholic beverage sales are ordered closed at noon Friday. While customers won’t be allowed to visit, those businesses can provide delivery and take-out services, which include beverage sales.

The new orders were issued Friday, a day after Abbott ordered hospitals in the state’s largest metros to stop all elective surgeries in order to save bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.

The order also requires restaurants to hold capacity at 50% beginning Monday, but they can remain open for dine-in service.

He also shut down river-rafting trips and banned outdoor gatherings of over 100 people unless local officials approve.

“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 in a news release. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”

In Houston alone, Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city added nearly 1,000 new cases on Thursday, with four additional deaths.

As for outdoor gatherings, Abbott’s decision Friday represents his second adjustment in that category this week. Abbott on Tuesday gave local governments the choice to place restrictions on outdoor gatherings of over 100 people after previously setting the threshold at over 500 people. Now outdoor gatherings of over 100 people are prohibited unless local officials explicitly approve of them.
Abbott’s actions Friday were his first significant moves to reverse the reopening process that he has led since late April. He said Monday that shutting down the state again is a last resort, but the situation has been worsening quickly.

On Thursday, he announced the state was putting a pause on any future reopening plans, though none were scheduled and the announcement did not affect businesses that were already allowed to reopen. Earlier in the day, Abbott sought to free up hospital space for coronavirus patients by banning elective surgeries in four of the state’s biggest counties: Bexar, Travis, Dallas and Harris.

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 cases to tests. The rate, presented by the state as a seven-day average, has gone up to 11.76% – where it was at in mid-April and above the 10% threshold that Abbott has said would cause alarm for the reopening process.

“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,” Abbott said. “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.”

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