Houston (AFP) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to close on Friday amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the second most populous state in the country.
As Abbott outlined a series of measures aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19 in Texas, the chief executive of Harris County, the state’s largest, issued a stay-at-home advisory and raised the threat level to Level 1, or “severe.”
Under Abbott’s executive order, bars are required to close but may continue to provide delivery and take-out service.
Restaurants can remain open but with only 50 percent indoor capacity.
Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people need the approval of local governments.
“As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10 percent, 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,” he said.
“The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.
“We want this to be as limited in duration as possible.”
Lina Hidalgo, the chief executive of Harris County, which includes the city of Houston and has a population of over four million, urged residents to respect her stay-at-home advisory.
“Stay home except for essential needs,” Hidalgo said. “Anything short of staying home is setting us up for failure.
“This pandemic is like an invisible hurricane,” she said. “This is a serious situation. The outbreaks are worsening.”
She said she was raising the threat level from Level 2, or “significant,” to Level 1 — “severe.”
Texas was among the most aggressive states in reopening in early June after months of lockdown.
The Texas Department of State Health Services reported a new record of 5,596 new coronavirus cases Thursday, a major jump from just 10 days ago, when the state had only 1,254 new cases in a day.
Abbott is an ally of Donald Trump, but his latest announcement is in stark contrast to the president, who has tried to signal that the virus crisis is largely over.