As COVID-19 Cases Reach New Highs, Texas and Florida Order Bars to Close Again

As the number of new COVID-19 cases have reached record highs, Texas and Florida today ordered bars cease on-premise operations.

Early Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today issued an executive order shuttering Lone Star State bars for on-site sales, effective at noon CST today. Abbott also ordered on-premise dining occupancy at restaurants to be reduced from 75% to 50%. Abbott’s moves comes a day after he paused the state’s phased reopening plans.

Texas cases of COVID-19 have spiked over the last three days, reaching consecutive record highs in reported cases, with Thursday’s number of new cases at nearly 6,000, as well as hospitalizations in excess of 4,700 patients.

Abbot specifically called out bars and similar establishments in his order, noting that businesses that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages closed, effective at noon. Although on-site consumption is closed, bars can remain open for delivery and takeout, including alcoholic beverages.

“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. “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 actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain the virus and protect public health.

“We want this to be as limited in duration as possible,” Abbott continued. “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.”

The cutback on occupancy levels at Texas restaurants is slated to begin Monday, June 29. The governor also ordered rafting and tubing businesses to close, and the state is requiring outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more to receive approval from local governments.

Meanwhile in Florida, the state is ceasing on-premise consumption of alcoholic beverages at bars immediately, according to The Hill. The move comes a day after the state’s health department reported 8,942 new cases of COVID-19, a single day record for Florida since the pandemic began.

Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to pull the liquor licenses of bars that refused to follow reopening guidelines, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“If you go in and it’s just like mayhem, like Dance Party USA and it’s packed to the rafters, that’s just cut and dry,” said DeSantis, referencing the TV show that ran on the USA Network from 1986 to 1992. “That’s not just an innocent mistake.”

Across the country, 32 states have reported increases in new COVID-19 cases, according to CNN.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey has paused the state’s continued reopening plans but has stopped short of rolling back business reopenings.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S has now reached more than 2.4 million, with 124,509 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.

The U.S. coronavirus task force is scheduled to meet today for the first time in two months.

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