Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state to slow down the reopening process for bars and other venues as coronavirus-related infections, hospitalizations and deaths continued to increase in Texas last week.
“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. “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 ordered bars and other state-licensed establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages to close at noon on June 26, but allowed them to continue offering delivery and take-out services until further notice.
The governor allowed restaurants, beginning June 29, to remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy.
Also notably, the governor ordered rafting and tubing businesses to close and that outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people obtain the approval of local governments before the event.
While stopping short of issuing a statewide order for Texans to wear nose-and-mouth-covering masks in public, Abbott did say every Texan “has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public and stay home if they can.”
Meanwhile, after news that the Trump administration planned to cut funding for COVID-19 testing stations in Texas and other states, Abbott announced that the federal government had granted his request to extend operations of community-based testing sites across Texas. The expansion is aimed particularly at Dallas and Houston, where the spread of the deadly, influenza-like disease surged in recent days.
In related news, Abbott issued an executive order on June 25 prohibiting elective surgeries at hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties. The order, intended to make more hospital beds available to potential influxes of COVID-19 patients, directs all hospitals in those counties to postpone surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary.
Cumulative figures posted June 28 by the Texas Department of State Health Services showed some 148,728 COVID-19 cases reported and 2,393 confirmed deaths resulting from the disease in the Lone Star State.
Meeting methods contrast
Plans are in place for the Republican Party of Texas to hold its convention July 16-18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Some 6,000 delegates are expected to attend in person.
Conversely, from June 1-6 the Texas Democratic Party held its convention in fully online mode to minimize health risks related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Study: Impact of military
A study conducted by the comptroller’s office estimates that military installations in Texas contributed at least $123 billion to the state economy in 2019 and supported more than 630,000 direct and indirect jobs.
In a June 22 joint news release with the governor’s office, Comptroller Glenn Hegar said the military’s impact on the state economy “can be felt by every Texan.”
Gov. Abbott said, “Now more than ever, these jobs add critical stability for communities focused on economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Military installations listed in the news release include:
Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene; U.S. Army Futures Command, Austin; Corpus Christi Army Depot; Corpus Christi Naval Air Station; Laughlin Air Force Base, Del Rio; Fort Bliss, El Paso; Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base; and Ellington Field, Houston.
Also, Fort Hood, Killeen; Naval Air Station Kingsville; Goodfellow Air Force Base, San Angelo; Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston-Lackland Air Force Base-Randolph Air Force Base; Red River Army Depot, Texarkana; and Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls.
Paxton cheers SCOTUS
A request by the Texas Democratic party and other plaintiffs to have a San Antonio U.S. district court ruling reinstated that would allow all registered voters to vote by mail instead of in person was denied June 26 by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
The action leaves in place an order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, blocking the lower court ruling. “Universal mail-in ballots, which are notoriously vulnerable to fraud, would only lead to greater election fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters,” Paxton said.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said, however: “The case proceeds on in other filings before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit, and therefore hope remains that the federal courts will restore equal voting rights in time for the November elections.”