November 28, 2020

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Texas rolls back its reopening plan as cases rise

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott speaks to the press after attending the public viewing for George Floyd at the Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas on June 8, 2020.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Friday that he will roll back some of the state’s reopening as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. 

“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,” Abbott 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. 

The order includes the following:

  • All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at 12:00 pm Friday. These businesses may remain open for delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. 
  • Restaurants may remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy, beginning Monday.
  • Rafting and tubing businesses must close.
  • Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.

Abbott’s order comes only a day after he said he would place the state’s reopening plan on pause. On Thursday, he ordered all licensed hospitals in four counties that include the state’s largest cities — Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin —  to postpone elective procedures in order to protect hospital capacity for Covid-19 patients. 

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

Texas reported an 79% increase in its weekly average of coronavirus cases on Thursday, averaging 4,757 daily new cases, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. 

Another factor that is watched carefully is hospitalizations, which can indicate how severe cases are in an area. This data can lag the number of new cases. 

As of Thursday, the average daily number of hospitalizations in Texas has increased nearly 55% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Covid Tracking Project data. 

Abbott has previously warned that “additional measures are going to be necessary” and the state would have to take “tougher actions” if daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to climb at current rates into July. 

On Tuesday, he recommended residents to stay home unless they have to venture outside. He has consistently asked Texans to wear face coverings and follow social distancing guidelines to prevent further spread of Covid-19. 

“Wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open, because not taking action to slow the spread will cause Covid to spread even worse, risking people’s lives and ultimately leading to the closure of more businesses,” Abbott said at a press briefing on Monday. 

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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