DALLAS — A reversal by Governor Greg Abbott, choosing to re-close bars after an apparent COVID-19 resurgence in Texas, comes after weeks of optimism that Texas was managing the outbreak while allowing businesses to resume operations.
Back on May 8, as Texas entered Phase 1 of its reopening plan for restaurants and stores at 25% capacity, the governor shared his optimism with WFAA.
"This is based upon sound medical advice," he said.
At the time, there 36,609 COVID-19 cases identified in Texas and 1,734 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals.
"We can co-exist doing both, opening up our economy while containing the spread of COVID-19," Abbott said on May 8. "And we need to do that to get our economy going while also containing the coronavirus in Texas."
By May 22, the governor reported signs of progress, a downward trajectory in the COVID-19 positivity rate.
But by June 5, with bars allowed to open at 50% capacity, the numbers started to climb.
"The numbers are clearly going in the wrong direction, " WFAA news anchor Chris Lawrence said in his conversation with Governor Abbott.
"Don't let people mislead you with regard to certain numbers," Abbott responded. "Doesn't mean the situation has gotten worse. The hospitalization rate has stayed the same."
But now, that is no longer the case.
Texas has more COVID-19 patients in the hospital now than ever: 4,739.
As of June 25, the state has tallied 131,917 total cases, according to data compiled by the Texas Department of State Health Services. And the positivity rate is now among the highest in the United Sates at 11.76%.
"So I don't think, unfortunately, that we are hearing any good news," said Dr. John Carlo of the Dallas County Medical Society in response to the state's latest numbers.
He says the data and the COVID incubation period, point to the reopening of restaurants and bars, and perhaps the "COVID fatigue" of people letting their guard, and their masks down.
"Which is really when we started coming out of our stay-at-home safe recommendations and started opening businesses, unfortunately. So, I do think there is a time correlation to those changes," said Carlo. "This is a very serious consequence, where we are, and I am frankly glad we are taking the measures that the governor is taking."
Per Governor Abbott's latest orders, bars that get more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages were required to close at noon Friday. Restaurants can remain open for dine-in service, but their capacities can not exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy, starting Monday.
Rafting and tubing businesses must close, and outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments.
"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 written 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 actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health."
More on WFAA:
- As Gov. Abbott closes bars weeks after allowing them to reopen, bar owners grapple with uncertainty
- Week in Review: Texas rolls back reopening after coronavirus cases spike
- North Texas family shaken after 18 relatives test positive for COVID-19 following family gathering
- Federal government to continue support for coronavirus testing sites in Dallas
- Texas hit 50,000 COVID-19 cases in 76 days. Since then, the infection rate has more than doubled