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Abbott allows county judges to reopen bars

Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order Oct. 7 to allow the reopening of bars in counties with hospitalizations at less than 15 percent of hospital capacity.

Gov. Greg Abbott's order allowing counties to reopen bars as of Oct. 14 is under review by Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales, who is expected to issue her own order in the following days. In the Oct. 7 state order, Abbott left it to county judges to decide if their county qualified.

Bars in Trauma Service Areas with hospitalizations at less than 15 percent of hospital capacity can reopen at 50 percent capacity as of Oct. 14, Abbott said in his executive order. Protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 will have to be followed by bars and enforced by each county.

“I intend to ensure that our bar owners understand the strict requirements and work with state, county, and city agencies to comply with the letter and spirit of the law,” Canales said.

Dance floors within bars must remain closed. All patrons will have to remain seated while drinking, although the governor included limited exceptions for sampling at breweries, distilleries, and wineries.

“This is our opportunity to continue to open our economy safely,” Canales said in a statement issued soon after the governor’s announcement. “We have made tremendous progress in our infection, hospitalization, and mortality rates. I believe we can create safe protocols if we work together.”

While the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths have dropped considerably since the summer’s peak, hospitalizations have leveled over the past two weeks. The average is around 70 people in the hospital. At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, the Nueces County health district reported 12 new cases and two deaths. Currently, 74 people are hospitalized, 33 of those in intensive care.

The order also allows river tubing businesses to reopen. Tubing and bars were the only businesses still not able to operate since being shut down for a second time in July.

Capacity was raised to 75 percent from 50 percent at amusement parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, bowling alleys, and bingo parlors.

“Even as more businesses have opened and students return to school, Texans have shown we can contain the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said. “Working with industry leaders and our team of medical experts, the state of Texas has now developed strategies to safely open bars under certain health protocols.”

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