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Texas Governor Rolls Back Reopening as Coronavirus Cases Spike

A patient is wheeled into Houston Methodist Hospital amid the coronavirus outbreak in Houston, Texas, June 22, 2020. (Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott rolled back his state’s reopening process on Friday as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to soar in Texas.

“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 statement. “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 will be required to close at 12p.m on Friday but may 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 comes a day after Abbot paused the state’s reopening process and two days after he 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.

“As we experience an increase in both positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, we are focused on strategies that slow the spread of this virus while also allowing Texans to continue earning a paycheck to support their families,” Abbott wrote in a statement Thursday morning. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses. This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business.”

The governor also banned elective surgeries in four counties that are experiencing rising numbers of coronavirus cases, in order to keep hospital beds open for coronavirus patients. Non-essential procedures will be prohibited temporarily in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties.

“To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled,” Abbott said Monday at a news briefing.

Texas recorded a record daily high of 5,996 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. Daily hospitalizations of people infected with the pathogen have spiked to an average of more than 3,200 daily, doubling the daily average that obtained during the latter half of May.

Abbott warned earlier this week that the state may reimpose restrictions should cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

Several other states have seen their coronavirus cases soar in recent days, including Florida, Arizona, and California. Along with Texas, Alabama, Missouri and Nevada also reported daily highs of new cases on Thursday.

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