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Texas Is Closing Down Bars Again And Limiting Indoor Dining As COVID-19 Cases Surge To Alarming Heights

Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order comes the day after Texas reported a record high of new cases and coronavirus hospitalizations in a single day.

Last updated on June 27, 2020, at 11:43 a.m. ET

Posted on June 26, 2020, at 11:45 a.m. ET

Mark Felix / Getty Images

A server wearing a face mask takes orders from a table of customers in Houston.

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As coronavirus cases surge to alarming new heights across the country, bars in Texas have been ordered to shut down once again and restaurants have been told to limit indoor dining.

Bars must close by noon local time on Friday, though they can continue to offer delivery and takeout, including for alcoholic drinks. Restaurants can operate at only half their indoor capacity, Gov. Greg Abbott said in an executive order.

Local officials must sign off on gatherings of 100 or more people, and tubing and rafting businesses will close entirely.

In Florida, where the number of new coronavirus cases in a single day hit another record high, also banned the consumption of alcohol in bars Friday.

Several states that have moved into advanced stages of reopening in the past few weeks have seen a dramatic spike in new COVID-19 cases over the last seven days.

Texas, now one of the nation's coronavirus hot spots, reported the single highest number of new cases in a day and a record high for coronavirus hospitalizations on Thursday.

Abbott's decision to place restrictions on businesses again goes a step further than his announcement the day before, which called for pausing the state's reopening plans.

"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," he said Thursday. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business."

However, Abbott acknowledged Friday that the increase in coronavirus cases "is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars."

Texas had among the shortest duration of shelter-in-place orders. Abbott allowed the state to begin reopening in phases on May 1 against repeated warnings from public health experts.

In an interview with local outlet KVIA on Friday afternoon, Abbott said, "Sure, in hindsight, it may have been better to have slowed the opening of the bar setting. But Texas was looking so good even a month after we opened up."

He said he now sees how quickly the coronavirus can spread in bars. "If I could go back and redo anything, I would slow down the opening of bars," Abbott added.

Sergio Flores / Getty Images

Customers sit inside a bar in Austin, Texas.

Experts have also urged the public to continue wearing face masks, a measure they believe to be highly effective in preventing the spread of the virus but has become a political statement in the US. Governors in several states have recently made masks mandatory in public places, and in Texas, some counties have required that businesses make its customers wear masks.

More than a dozen states have seen a huge increase in coronavirus infections and new hospitalizations in recent weeks, leading to renewed fears that the worst of the pandemic in the US is yet to come.

CORRECTION

Texas's requirement for masks was misstated in a previous version of this story.

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