HOUSTON - Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order Friday closing bars and tubing businesses, and placing limitations on restaurants and outdoor gatherings.
According to the governor's office, the decision comes as the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 and the number of hospitalizations have increased, and the positivity rate in Texas increased above 10%.
“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,” said Governor Abbott. “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars," Governor Abbott said. "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. However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part. 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. I know that our collective action can lead to a reduction in the spread of COVID-19 because we have done it before, and we will do it again.”
According to the order issued Friday, bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at noon Friday. Delivery and to-go service can continue, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Restaurants, which were previously allowed to operate at 75 percent capacity, must scale back to 50 percent of the total listed indoor occupancy beginning Monday, June 29.
Rafting and tubing businesses have been ordered to close.
Outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must be approved by local government, with certain exceptions.
On Thursday, Gov. Abbott announced a temporary pause on any further phases to reopen the state.
Texas has undergone three phases of reopening. Bars, restaurants, museums, hair salons, youth camps, movie theaters, museums and more have been allowed to reopen with some restrictions on capacity and the requirement to follow certain health protocols.
Phase III, which was announced June 3, allowed retailers to accommodate 50% capacity immediately, and the same applied to bars as long as patrons were seated. On June 12, restaurants were allowed to serve groups as large as 10 and could expand to 75% total capacity. It also allowed for outdoor Fourth of July celebrations of 500 or more at the discretion of local officials.
On Thursday, Abbott also signed an executive order suspending elective surgeries in four counties: Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis.
Earlier this week, Gov. Abbott said the state is facing a “massive outbreak” in the coronavirus pandemic as the numbers of new cases and hospitalizations hit record highs.
Texas has reported more than 17,000 confirmed new cases in the last three days with a record high positive tests of 5,996 on Thursday. The day’s tally of 4,739 hospitalizations was also a record. The state’s rolling infection rate hit nearly 12%, a level not seen since the state was in a broad lockdown in mid-April.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.