AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott posted a tweet Monday that would seem to suggest the shutdown of bars in the state could be coming to an end.
Gov. Abbott's tweet featured a GIF of two beer glasses being raised in a toast. In the tweet, he wrote:
"Texans have continued to keep COVID under control. The hospitalizations, number of new positive cases, and positivity rate remain contained. Today was one of the lowest for fatalities in a long time. I will be announcing more openings soon. Cheers!"
According to a KVUE analysis of COVID-19 numbers in Texas, when bars originally reopened on May 22, the number of hospitalizations was 1,578, the seven-day average for new cases was 1,179 and the positivity rate was 5.97%. On Monday, the number of hospitalizations was 3,318, the seven-day average for new cases was 3,261 and the positivity rate was 6.23%.
Bars have been closed due to the governor's executive order back in June. However, bars have had the option to reopen and operate as restaurants.
In August, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) changed its guidance to allow businesses to use alcohol sales projections or show that they recently had less than 51% alcohol sales in order to apply for a Food and Beverage Certificate. If granted, the businesses could then reopen as restaurants.
Dr. John Abikhaled, an Austin surgeon and the president of the Travis County Medical Society, said while he believes eating in a restaurant could be safe with safety measures, caution should still be taken.
"I think that if there's a restaurant that has tables separated so there's space and good ventilation and the staff are using the precautions that they've been trained to use, I think that eating in a restaurant can be safe," Dr. Abikhaled said. "I think it's a question of how good a job is that any particular restaurant doing at enforcing that? And you've probably seen, as I have, that some places are better at doing it and more strict at doing it than others."
Some Central Texas doctors say even though the recent trend of the COVID-19 numbers is encouraging, people should keep their guards up.
"It is great news that it's under better control in Texas, but we're still seeing patients get admitted to [the] hospital and still seeing patients who get seriously ill," said Dr. Jan Patterson, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at UT Health San Antonio. "You know, I think what is good news is that people have taken it seriously."
She added that it's important for establishments to follow safety protocols.
"I think we still have to be careful about crowded indoor spaces that are not well ventilated. And, you know, because – simply because in a restaurant setting or a bar setting, you're not going to be wearing your mask all the time," Patterson said. "And, you know, you're going to be exposed to people and usually with relatively close contact without [the] protection of a mask. So, I think we still have to be careful in those situations."
On Monday, the Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance (TBNA) responded to Abbott's tweet, saying it has been "putting growing pressure on the governor since August" and anticipating him "to take action in reopening bars safely and fairly." The TBNA said, "Although we do not have official word on whether or not bars will be allowed to reopen, this tweet appears to be a significant step toward reopening."
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