Coronavirus

Coronavirus USA: Why is Texas pausing reopening?

The state of Texas has put a temporary hold on reopening business activity as coronavirus cases soar in the Lone Star state and across the south and west.

Coronavirus USA: Why is Texas pausing reopening?
SERGIO FLORES AFP

55 days after reopening bars, restaurants and other businesses in the state, Texan governor Greg Abbott was forced to put the re-opening process on hold on Thursday by stopping additional phases of the state’s reopening as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations soared and as the governor struggled to pull off the seemingly impossible task of keeping both the state open and the virus under control.

Bar and restaurant owners in Texas were fuming on Friday after state officials abruptly slapped new restrictions on their businesses due to a spike in new Covid-19 cases.

Owners warned the sudden reversals, just weeks after accelerated reopenings, will drive some out of business. "You can't turn a bar into an UberEats," said Jeff Kaplan, co-owner of Houston's Axelrad Beer Garden. He said businesses could not stay afloat relying on the new rules that provide to-go sales but not alcohol consumption on the premises.

Covid cases soar

Houston officials advised residents to stay home, and Texas ordered doctors to end elective surgeries as new coronavirus cases set records on three consecutive days.

Houston restaurant owner Peter Mitchell said his revenue has been running a third of normal and fell further as virus cases soared in the region.

"It'll be a close call as to whether we stay open," he said. "I wish we had tougher restrictions for another month when we did the 25% occupancy (phase)," said Mitchell. He said his business never has exceeded 25% occupancy, but noted that no regulators have ever checked.

Some are willing to accept the loss of business for the public good. "It was a little unexpected," said Sara Murray, manager of the Cheers Pub in Friendswood, Texas. "In the end we all have to do what we have to do to keep everyone safe."

A worker drills a piece of plywood onto the facade of the Voodoo Room bar in Austin, Texas, June 26, 2020. - Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas have spiked in recent weeks after being one of the first states to begin reopening. (Photo by Sergio FLORES / AFP)

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