by Andrew Kerr
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered that bars be shut down across the state for a second time on Friday amid a growing surge in coronavirus cases in his state.
Abbott also ordered restaurants to scale back their operating capacity from 75% to 50% starting Monday. In addition, Abbott ordered that outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must also receive approval by local governments before taking place. Rafting and tubing businesses in the state have been ordered to close as well.
The new restrictions came as Texas has seen more than 17,000 new coronavirus cases since Tuesday, resulting in a record-high 4,739 hospitalizations as of Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
Abbott had previously stated that he would reintroduce preventative measures if the coronavirus positivity rate in Texas exceeded 10%. The positivity rate in the state on Thursday was 12%, according to the AP.
“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 statement Friday. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and enhance public health.”
The restrictions were announced after Abbott said Thursday the last thing he wants to do is “go backwards and close down businesses.”
Abbott said every Texan has a role to play in ensuring the economic restrictions can be lifted in as limited duration as possible.
“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,” Abbott said. “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.”
Abbott has issued repeated warnings about the spread of coronavirus in Texas this week, saying Monday that the virus was “spreading at an unacceptable rate.”
Houston’s largest medical center said Wednesday that the city’s hospital capacity could soon become overrun due to young people increasingly becoming hospitalized from coronavirus.
“While everyone is susceptible to contracting COVID-19, we are seeing significantly larger number of younger patients being admitted to our hospitals,” the Texas Medical Center said.
As of Friday, TMC’s reported ICU bed occupancy was at 99.6% of normal levels, compared to its normal base occupancy of around 70% to 80%.
The system has the ability to increase its capacity for about 1,000 additional beds during public health emergencies, but at the rate the city is going, that emergency capacity could be exhausted within the next two weeks, KHOU-11 reported.
Coronavirus cases are up 30% nationwide since the beginning of June, according to Axios.
Arizona has also been the site of a massive surge of the virus, with positive cases increasing 77% over the past week.
Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations were “unacceptable” and urged residents of his state to wear masks in public and to refrain from gathering in large groups.
Ducey’s warning came two days after President Donald Trump spoke before a tightly packed crowd of supporters at a megachurch in Phoenix.
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Andrew Kerr is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Gregg Abbott’ by Gregg Abbott.