Texas gets a taste of what re-closing the state looks like
Looks like hitting the bars won’t be on the menu this weekend in Texas.
On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order mandating the closure of certain businesses including “bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages.” The closures take effect as of noon Friday. Rafting and tubing businesses were also ordered to close, while restaurants can remain open if they only fill to 50% of total listed indoor capacity starting Monday, June 29. Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must now be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions, according to a release from the governor’s office.
“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,” said Abbott. “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 closings come as Texas is one of several states where cases have surged. As Fortune reported, Texas averaged 1,746 new coronavirus cases per day in the week ending June 10; in the seven-day period ending Thursday, June 24, that figure was 4,549. The average number of new cases per day jumped up by 2,527 in Florida; 1,828 in California; and by 1,616 in Arizona over the two-week period.
As Howard Koh, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told Fortune, “The fact that our most populous states are seeing trends going the wrong way is quite disturbing.”
Interestingly Florida, which has also seen a surge of COVID-19 cases, on Friday banned the serving of alcohol in bars, but did not close them. The announcement was made via a tweet from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. There was no further information on how long the ban would be in effect.
On Thursday, Texas also suspended elective surgeries in major metropolitan areas amid a surge in hospitalizations that have left the state’s largest counties, including Harris, Dallas, Travis, and Bexar counties, reeling. “These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19, and today’s action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients,” wrote Abbott.
These rollbacks will certainly slow the economic progress Texas had previously been making. When Fortune examined state-by-state unemployment as of late May, Texas was faring far better than most other states, second only to Oregon with the smallest jump in residents joining the unemployment rolls. In fact, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Texas added 237,800 new jobs in May, the largest gain of any state. Pennsylvania (+198,300) and Florida (+182,900) were close behind.