LUBBOCK, Texas, June 26 (Reuters) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Friday ordered bars to close down again and restaurants to scale back service, throwing the state’s emergence from a coronavirus shutdown into reverse after an alarming surge of new infections.
Texas, which had been at the forefront of states peeling away restrictions designed to control the deadly pandemic, has witnessed one of the biggest jumps in new cases in the United States, reporting more than 6,000 on Monday alone. The state has seen a record number of hospitalizations for 13 straight days.
Abbott ordered bars to shut at noon on Friday, except for take-out, and told restaurants to limit indoor capacity to 50%, from a previous 75%.
“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.
Health experts say that a high rate of positive testing signals that the state is losing control of the spread.
“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 Republican governor said in a statement.
Abbott also ordered the closure of water rafting and tubing businesses and banned most outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people without approval.
The governor’s moves come a day after he suspended elective surgeries in the Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio areas to free up hospital bed space.
The rising numbers of infections and hospitalizations are part of a nationwide resurgence in states that were spared the brunt of the initial outbreak or moved early to lift restrictions on residents and businesses.
Also reporting record rises in cases this week were Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming. (Reporting by Brad Brooks, Jonathan Allen, Nathan Layne and Peter Szekely Writing by Alistair Bell Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)