Texas bar owners reel as governor orders them closed again, COVID-19 cases spike

By Brad Brooks LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) - Texas and Florida, at the center of a new U.S. surge in coronavirus infections, on Friday took steps back from efforts to ease restrictions on businesses, ordering bars to close again and tightening rules on restaurants

Reuters June 27, 2020 04:11:24 IST
Texas bar owners reel as governor orders them closed again, COVID-19 cases spike

COVID-19 cases spike" src="https://images.firstpost.com/wp-content/uploads/reuters/06-2020/27/2020-06-26T174331Z_2_LYNXMPEG5P1NS_RTROPTP_2_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-USA.jpg" alt="Texas bar owners reel as governor orders them closed again COVID19 cases spike" width="300" height="225" />

By Brad Brooks

LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) - Texas and Florida, at the center of a new U.S. surge in coronavirus infections, on Friday took steps back from efforts to ease restrictions on businesses, ordering bars to close again and tightening rules on restaurants.

Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars across Texas to close by mid-day and required restaurants to limit indoor seating capacity to 50%, while Florida state officials told bars to immediately stop serving alcohol on their premises.

The announcement stunned Texas bar owners who said Abbott, a Republican in his second term as governor, had given them only four hours notice that they had to close at noon. Mark Martinez, owner of a Lubbock beer garden, learned when friends texted him the news at around 8 a.m.

"I spent thousands of dollars in inventory getting ready for this weekend. I could have really used that (money) for my rent, which is due next week," said Martinez, 44.

"We were just getting to where we could pay the bills," said Tish Keller, owner of the Triple J Chophouse and Brew Co. in downtown Lubbock. "Taking us back down to 50% capacity means we won't have enough business to pay staff, let alone the bills."

Keller said she had no idea how long she could stay open under the new rules and dreaded trying to save her business from ruin twice in one year.

Florida issued its new rules after recording a startling 8,942 new cases of COVID-19 , the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus , eclipsing the state's one-day record of 5,511 reached on June 24.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday that Imperial County, east of Los Angeles, has become so overwhelmed by the virus that the state was recommending it issue a strict new stay-at-home order.

Newsom also said that in response to rising COVID-19 hospitalizations he has paused allowing counties to further reopen their economies.

MASKS IN ALASKA

Anchorage, Alaska Mayor Ethan Berkowitz issued an emergency order requiring residents to wear masks in public, indoor spaces after Alaska identified 836 cases as of Friday, with 387 of them in his city.

Texas had been at the forefront of states peeling away restrictions designed to control the pandemic. It allowed bars to reopen in May, when revelers flouting social distancing rules celebrated Memorial Day weekend.

It has since witnessed some of the biggest increases in new cases in the United States, reporting 5,996 on Thursday. The state has also seen record numbers of hospitalizations in the last two weeks.

Almost 125,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 , the highest known death toll from the highly infections disease in the world.

Despite the grim news from Texas, Florida and elsewhere, U.S. President Donald Trump said the United states was coming back from the coronavirus crisis, which has halted large parts of the economy and left millions jobless.

"We have a little work to do, and we'll get it done. We're having some very good numbers coming out in terms of the comeback, the comeback of our nation, and I think it's going very rapidly and it's going to be very good," he said at an event in the White House.

Vice President Mike Pence said that in Texas and Florida "we're seeing more and more young people, under the age of 35, who are testing positive. In many cases they have no symptoms."

Also reporting record rises in cases this week were Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Nathan Layne, Peter Szekely in New York; Jane Ross in Los Angeles, and Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Writing by Alistair Bell and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Daniel Wallis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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