Bars in Texas have been closed since June 26 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Gov. Greg Abbott sent a tweet Monday afternoon hinting that they could soon reopen.
Abbott said Texans have kept "COVID-19 under control" and that he would announce "more openings soon." He added a gif of two beer glasses with the word "cheers" to the tweet.
Hundreds of Texas bars reclassified as restaurants in the interim after a ruling from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that allowed bars to reopen as a restaurant even if their total revenue from alcoholic beverages topped 51%.
The change allowed bars to count sales of prepackaged food, even chips and salsa – and eliminated the requirement for having an on-site kitchen.
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In the tweet, Abbott wrote that hospitalizations, the number of new positive cases and the positivity rate "remain contained."
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Texas has not dropped below 3,080 since mid-June but has held between 3,080 and 3,400 since early September.
"The Dallas County Public Health Committee, made up of experts in infectious disease and public health, strongly discourages the reopening of bars at this time," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins wrote in a tweet shortly after Abbott posted.
"If bars do open, I strongly encourage people not to go, and to talk to the young people about not going," Jenkins said Tuesday. "If people do go to venues like bars and restaurants, it's far better to go outside than inside."
But Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance President Michael Klein said he believed Abbott's reopening of bars was imminent.
News from around the state of Texas.
As restaurants have been allowed to reopen, Klein's association has pushed back against the notion that bars are more likely to lead to the spread of the virus than restaurants, which are now allowed to operate at 75% capacity.
“We’ve asked Gov. Abbott from the beginning to work with us and let's find ways to support our businesses instead of using the last-ditch effort of keeping everybody closed and ruining people’s lives that way," Klein said.
Though he said more than 1,200 bars have filed for new licenses to operate as restaurants, there are some that can't afford to.
While the number of hospitalizations in other metropolitan areas in the state, like Austin, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio, have decreased significantly since peaking in July, through Sunday they had increased by 149 since Sept. 6 in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The seven-day average for new cases in Texas rose on Saturday and Sunday and has been between 3,800 and 6,800 since Sept. 14. The CDC recommends a 14-day downward trajectory in newly identified COVID-19 cases before states move on to the next phase of their reopening plans.
Texas' positivity rate has decreased slowly since the virus peaked during the summer, falling from a high of 20.73% on July 7 to 5.94% on Sept. 27. Sunday it was 6.45%.
Abbott's tweet added that the state on Monday reported the lowest number of COVID-19-related deaths in a long time, with eight. It was the lowest number since Texas reported seven fatalities on June 14.
More than 16,000 Texans have died after testing positive for COVID-19 since testing began in March.
The wording of Abbott's initial order in late June read, "All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at 12 p.m. Friday, June 26. These businesses may remain open for delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission."
Coronavirus Cases in Texas
Locations on the map are approximate county locations and are not intended to identify where any infected people live.
Case data was pulled from a variety of sources including county health departments and the Texas Department of State Health Services.