The moves, announced Friday morning, represent Abbott’s most dramatic action yet in response a surge in cases after he allowed businesses to reopen in the state.
He also shut down river-rafting trips and banned outdoor gatherings of over 100 people unless local officials approve.
“At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said in a news release. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”
Bars most close at noon Friday, and the reduction in restaurant capacity takes effect Monday. Before Abbott’s announcement Friday, bars were able to operate at 50% capacity and restaurants at 75% capacity.
As for outdoor gatherings, Abbott’s decision Friday represents his second adjustment in that category this week. Abbott on Tuesday gave local governments the choice to place restrictions on outdoor gatherings of over 100 people after previously setting the threshold at over 500 people. Now outdoor gatherings of over 100 people are prohibited unless local officials explicitly approve of them.
Abbott’s actions Friday were his first significant moves to reverse the reopening process that he has led since late April. He said Monday that shutting down the state again is a last resort, but the situation has been worsening quickly.
On Thursday, he announced the state was putting a pause on any future reopening plans, though none were scheduled and the announcement did not affect businesses that were already allowed to reopen. Earlier in the day, Abbott sought to free up hospital space for coronavirus patients by banning elective surgeries in four of the state’s biggest counties: Bexar, Travis, Dallas and Harris.
Texas saw another record number of new cases Thursday — 5,996 — as well as hospitalizations — 4,739. The hospitalization number set a record for the 14th straight day.