Abbott’s New Executive Order Scales Back Texas Reopening

The governor ordered bars to shut down and restaurants to limit their capacity to 50% – a “last resort” because of rising COVID-19 cases.

By Michael MarksJune 26, 2020 7:02 am, , , ,

As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Friday he’s scaling back his reopening of the Texas economy.

Alex Samuels, political reporter for The Texas Tribune, told Texas Standard host David Brown that Abbott’s decision to shut down bars, limit restaurant capacity and more is a huge step, especially because earlier in the week he said a new shutdown would be a “last resort.”

What’s changing?

Samuels said effective at noon Friday, bars must shut down, and restaurants must go back to a 50% capacity limit starting Monday. Also, rafting and tubing businesses must temporarily shut down, and outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people require approval from local officials.

Why is Abbott making these charges?

The state’s “positivity rate,” an important metric Abbott uses to determine his reopening strategy, surpassed 10% this week. The positivity rate is the proportion of people who test positive for COVID-19 out of the umber of total tests conducted.

“The state exceeded a key metric Wednesday, when the 7-day average positivity rate surpassed 10%,” Samuels said.

As of Friday, the rate was at 11.76%. Abbott said passing the 10% threshold is a “warning flag” that the disease spread is out of

Samuels said there’s been outcry for the governor to do more to stop the spread, both from the public and from members of his own party. But there’s extra urgency because the Trump administration might stop funding some coronavirus testing sites in Texas.

“That’s put a lot of pressure on the governor and on local officials to make sure that there is abundant hospital capacity,” Samuels said

How long will these orders stay in effect?

There is no end date for these new restrictions in the recent executive order. But Samuels said Abbott will most likely be monitoring the positivity rate and number of hospitalizations to decide how to proceed.

Do hospitals have the capacity to handle the rise in cases?

Some of Texas’ largest counties have seen rapid increases in hospitalizations, Samuels said, including Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis Counties. Abbott has reissued a temporary ban on elective surgeries to open up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

Can we expect more restrictions in the near future?

“[Abbott] did not give an indication as to what might be next for the state, so I think it’s just a wait and see if the numbers do go down,” Samuels said.

Web story by Caroline Covington.

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