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Texas Bar Owners Sue Over Reimposed Coronavirus Restrictions

Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 20, 2018. (Jonathan Bachman/Reuters)

Several Texas bar owners on Monday sued over Governor Greg Abbott’s order to shut down their businesses again as coronavirus cases in the state soar.

Texas reported a record high on Monday of 5,913 individuals hospitalized for the coronavirus, and new cases of the virus rose on Saturday to a record daily high of 6,263 confirmed new cases. Deaths from the virus have remained level, however.

The bar owners filed lawsuits in Austin, Houston, and Galveston, charging that the governor has exceeded his authority under the state constitution to order bars to close again and claiming that the restrictions are being unfairly imposed on bars while other businesses, such as nail and hair salons, are allowed to continue operating. The owners are demanding that Abbott call the state legislature into a special session to handle the issue.

“Gov. Abbott continues to act like a king,” said Jared Woodfill, a lawyer representing the bar owners. “Abbott is unilaterally destroying our economy and trampling on our constitutional rights.”

Abbott rolled back his state’s reopening process on Friday, singling out activity in bars as a driving factor of the spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations Texas has experienced.

“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,” the Republican governor said. “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 governor’s slowdown of the reopening process reimposes restrictions on businesses he had allowed to reopen at partial capacity, including bars, restaurants, gyms, malls, and bowling alleys. Bars were required to close at 12 p.m. on Friday but are allowed to remain open for delivery and take-out orders. Restaurants may operate dine-in service at 50 percent capacity, down from the 75 percent capacity Abbott approved earlier this month. The majority of gatherings of 100 or more people must gain approval from local governments.

The announcement came two days after Abbott warned that the coronavirus is now spreading in Texas at an “unacceptable rate” and pleaded with residents to wear masks in public and continue practicing social distancing.

Several other states have seen their coronavirus cases spike in the last several weeks, including Florida, Arizona, and California. Along with Texas, Alabama, Missouri and Nevada.

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