At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced plans to allow restaurants to expand their indoor dining capacity, while requiring that bars still remain closed.
Under Abbott’s new executive order, restaurants will be allowed to seat diners up to 75 percent of their normal capacity starting on Monday, up from the 50 percent capacity limit implemented by Abbott in July. It’s actually the second time that restaurants have been allowed to increase to 75 percent capacity — Abbott initially announced plans for that back in June, then walked them back as COVID-19 cases rose.
“Because bars are nationally recognized as COVID spreading locations, they are still not able to open at this time. However, it is important for them to know that we are focused on ways to get them open,” Abbott said. “We need to work with the bars on effective strategies so that when they open, COVID spread can be effectively contained.” He did not elaborate on a timeline for when bars might be able to reopen.
Bars have been shuttered completely since June 29, when Abbott was forced to walk back his Open Texas plan as COVID-19 cases rose across the state. Bars were specifically singled out as problematic by the governor, who said that it was “clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars.”
The move comes just one day after the Texas Tribune reported that, back in May when Abbott allowed restaurants to reopen at limited capacity, the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate was still significantly higher than the 5 percent “benchmark” positivity rate that the World Health Organization recommends for reopening businesses. This early reopening, it seems, was a major contributor to the spike in novel coronavirus cases that the state saw in June.
The numbers continue to decline, but as Dallas County judge Clay Jenkins told Eater earlier this month, ordering takeout or delivery is still the safest way to dine out right now. “All things being equal, the doctors still point out that it’s safer to do takeout or curbside. If you are going to eat somewhere, it’s preferable to sit on the patio. But it’s even more preferable to take it home with you,” Jenkins said. “If you are over the age of 65 or have a high-risk condition, you still want to stay at home.”
The only exception to Abbott’s new guidelines for restaurants are establishments located in areas where the hospitalization rate is still too high, including the Rio Grande Valley, Victoria, and Laredo.
- Share of positive COVID-19 cases as Texas reopened was higher than originally reported, new state calculations show [TxTrib]
- Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins Is Rooting for the City’s Bars and Restaurants [EDFW]
- A Timeline of Dallas’s Tumultuous Restaurant Reopening During the COVID-19 Pandemic [EDFW]