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Abbott orders Texans to avoid groups of 10; closes bars, gyms and restaurants for dine-in

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday took sweeping action to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus across Texas, issuing an executive order that will close restaurants and schools, among other things.

During a news conference at the state Capitol, Abbott announced an executive order that will limit social gatherings to 10 people, prohibit eating and drinking at restaurants and bars while still allowing takeout, close gyms, ban people from visiting nursing homes except for critical care and temporarily close schools. The executive order is effective midnight Friday through midnight April 3, Abbott said.

“We are doing this now today so we can get back to business as usual more quickly,” Abbott said.

Abbott said the order reflected federal guidance and was necessary to “strangle” the expansion of coronavirus at the state level.

Abbott’s announcement is a remarkable shift after he spent days deferring to local officials on virus-related issues such as business and school closures.

His announcement was not entirely unexpected. Asked Wednesday if he was considering statewide restrictions on bars and restaurants, Abbott said he was and would have an announcement Thursday but first wanted to get input from local officials.

Texas has seen over 140 coronavirus cases and at least three deaths, Abbott said.

Abbott is set to address the outbreak again at 7 p.m., when he will participate in a virtual town hall hosted by Nexstar in Austin. The event will air live on 14 Nexstar stations across the state as well as online.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/03/19/texas-restaurants-bars-closed-greg-abbott/.

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