By PAUL J. WEBER Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that bars can begin reopening in Texas for the first time since June, ending one of the last full coronavirus lockdown measures put in place following a deadly summer outbreak.
However, Abbott’s order does not allow Texas bars to fully reopen, and not everywhere. He limited bars to resume business at 50% capacity beginning next week, and only in counties that grant permission.
Texas this week surpassed 16,000 virus deaths and is closing in on 800,000 confirmed cases. Last month, Abbott began relaxing some coronavirus restrictions for the first time since a summer surge of cases hammered Texas, overwhelming hospitals in Houston and along the hard-hit border with Mexico.
Although caseloads have dramatically dropped since August, hospitalizations in Texas have remained flat at roughly 3,200 patients for two weeks. Other states are seeing a resurgence in cases, including Wisconsin, where health officials announced Wednesday that a field hospital will open next week at the state fairgrounds near Milwaukee.
Nationwide, about 30,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Abbott’s handling of the pandemic has come under fire not just from angry bar owners but also the right wing if his own party. Conservative activists, who have driven the Texas GOP’s agenda for years, have filed multiple lawsuits accusing Abbott of overreaching in his lockdown orders and issuing a statewide mask mandate.