Texas is forcing bars to close again, Arizona is telling residents to stay home and Florida has paused its reopening plans as the states continue to see record spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
The governors of those three states were among the first in the country to lift coronavirus lockdown measures two months ago but are now backpedaling as infections continue to surge.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott shut down bars again on Friday and scaled back restaurant dining to 50 percent capacity – the most dramatic reversals yet as confirmed coronavirus cases surge.
Abbott also said rafting and tubing outfitters on Texas’ popular rivers must close and that outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must be approved by local governments.
The abrupt actions reflect how Texas is now scrambling to contain an outbreak less than two months after an aggressive reopening that was one of the fastest in the United States.
TEXAS CASES: Texas has reported more than 17,000 confirmed new cases in the last three days with a record high positive tests of 5,996 on Thursday
TEXAS HOSPITAL: The day’s tally of 4,739 hospitalizations was also a record. The state’s rolling infection rate hit nearly 12 percent, a level not seen since the state was in a broad lockdown in mid-April
TEXAS DEATHS: Deaths spiked to 47 on Thursday in Texas compared to the record 58 on May 15
‘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.’
He did not say when bars might reopen again. The bars that are effected are ones that get 51 percent of their gross receipts from alcohol.
Under the newest rollbacks, bars must close from noon on Friday. Restaurant dining rooms must scale back to half capacity starting Monday.
The shuttering of rafting and tubing businesses comes after people consistently packed waterways since the state reopened in May and ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend that typically sees big turnouts.
Texas has reported more than 17,000 confirmed new cases in the last three days with a record high positive tests of 5,996 on Thursday.
The day’s tally of 4,739 hospitalizations was also a record. The state’s rolling infection rate hit nearly 12 percent, a level not seen since the state was in a broad lockdown in mid-April.
The surge in hospitalizations has resulted in the largest pediatric hospital in the country opting to start treating adult patients in Houston to help free up beds. Statewide, the number of COVID-19 patients has more than doubled in two weeks.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott shut down bars again on Friday and scaled back restaurant dining to 50 percent capacity – the most dramatic reversals yet as confirmed coronavirus cases surge. Pictured are people dining out in May in Houston, Texas
Abbott also said rafting and tubing outfitters on Texas’ popular rivers must close and that outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more must be approved by local governments
The turnaround from Abbott came soon after he announced on Thursday that he was halting elective surgeries in the largest counties and said the state would ‘pause’ its aggressive reopening weeks after he began lifting restrictions.
His initial pause on reopening was not supposed to roll back previous orders that allowed much of the economy to reopen. The state was among the first in the country to begin lifting its lockdown measures on May 1.
Until this week, Abbott had maintained that worsening trends in June were a matter of concern but not alarm.
He quickly struck a newly urgent tone this week, urging people to stay home while warning that a ‘massive outbreak’ is sweeping through Texas.
He has also now urged Texans to wear masks in public but stopped short of issuing a statewide mask order.
The state’s cities and counties have imposed new orders on businesses to require customers and workers to wear face coverings after Abbott initially prohibited local officials from fining or penalizing anyone for not wearing a mask.
Abbott is not the only governor backpedaling following a swift reopening.
ARIZONA CASES: The number of infections in Arizona surged again on Thursday with just over 3,000 new cases reported
ARIZONA DEATHS: Arizona recorded 27 new deaths on Thursday, compared to the 67 deaths recorded on May 8
ARIZONA HOSPITALS: There are currently 4,400 people hospitalized in the state with coronavirus and 1,400 of those are in ICU beds
ARIZONA ICU CAPACITY: Arizona is nearing hospital bed capacity with 88 percent of ICU beds occupied as of Thursday
FLORIDA: For the second consecutive day, Florida reported more than 5,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. The state recorded 46 new deaths on Thursday
Arizona Gov Doug Ducey, also a Republican, is also telling residents to stay home and on Thursday declared the state was ‘on pause’ as hospitals accelerate toward capacity.
The number of infections in Arizona surged again on Thursday with just over 3,000 new cases reported. In Arizona, 23 percent of tests conducted over the past seven days have been positive, nearly triple the national average.
There are currently 4,400 people hospitalized in the state with coronavirus and 1,400 of those are in ICU beds. A record 415 patients are on ventilators in the state.
Arizona is nearing hospital bed capacity with 88 percent of ICU beds occupied as of Thursday.
In Arizona, Ducey had resisted pressure to close restaurants as the virus first spread back in March, saying the state wasn’t seeing explosive growth like New York and didn’t need to act so aggressively. The Democratic mayors of Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and elsewhere imposed their own restrictions.
The governor responded with an executive order closing restaurants in counties with known coronavirus infections but also defining some businesses cities couldn’t restrict, including golf courses.
Last week, Ducey changed his mind. Under extreme pressure to act as COVID-19 cases soar, Ducey gave local leaders the power to require masks, while avoiding making it a statewide mandate.
The numbers ‘continue to go in the wrong direction,’ Ducey said on Thursday.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Thursday he was pausing the state’s reopening due to the surge in cases as he resisted calls to mandate masks.
For the second consecutive day, Florida reported more than 5,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.
The rise in reported cases on Thursday was lower than the previous day’s record-setting mark, but it’s only the second time the state has crossed the 5,000-case mark in a day.
In total, the state has reported more than 114,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 3,327 coronavirus-related deaths.
Florida’s seven-day average positivity rate for coronavirus tests reached 14.4 percent this week. By comparison, it was 3.8 percent on June 1 and 2.3 percent on May 25.
‘We are where we are,’ DeSantis said, addong that many of the new cases are in younger, healthier people.
He said people can avoid spreading the virus by wearing masks, along with avoiding big crowds and not being within close quarters with lots of other people indoors.