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States that rushed to reopen forced to backtrack as virus surges

Bars and restaurants are closing in Texas and Florida as both states see record levels of new infections.

By Dan Desai Martin - June 26, 2020
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas and Florida announced major rollbacks to their reopening strategy on Friday as coronavirus cases in the states skyrocket.

Both were among the first to reopen in the midst of the pandemic, against expert advice. In Texas, many restaurants, bars, and stores reopened on May 1; Florida establishments followed suit on May 18.

On Friday, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott backtracked, issuing an executive order closing down bars across the state and reducing indoor restaurant capacity from 75% to 50%. The order also closed rafting and tubing businesses, and mandated that most outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people obtain permission from local governments.

Abbott’s announcement came after Texas set new records of confirmed virus cases for three days in a row, increasing from 5,489 new cases on Tuesday to 5,996 new cases on Thursday.

Some hospitals in Houston reached 97% capacity for their intensive care units as COVID-19 admissions spiked.

Abbott’s executive order “is far too little too late,” Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, said on Friday in an email. “The dam has burst in Texas and now Texans are paying the price.”

In Florida, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation suspended alcohol consumption at bars across the state, the Tampa Bay Times reported on Friday.

The decision came a day after Florida experienced a record-level of new coronavirus cases, reaching nearly 9,000 on Thursday.

The state’s previous single-day record was 5,508 cases, which happened earlier this week.

Experts have warned for months about the dangers of reopening businesses before the virus was under control.

Reopening too quickly could lead to “suffering and death that could be avoided,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said at a May 12 Senate hearing. Fauci expressed concern that the nation would “start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.”

The World Health Organization also issued a warning, with Dr. Margaret Harris, part of the group’s coronavirus response team, telling NPR, “What we are seeing is indeed, when people ease too quickly, that they do then see a rise in infections.”

In addition to Texas and Florida, several other states that moved to reopen their economies quickly have experienced a spike in cases, including Arkansas, Arizona, and California.

Nationally, the United States reported record-high levels of new coronavirus cases on both Wednesday (38,115) and Thursday (39,327).

As of Friday morning, the United States had more than 2,435,200 confirmed cases, and at least 124,393 people have died.

Despite this, Republicans, including Donald Trump, have insisted that states begin to open up once more, in an attempt to revitalize the struggling economy.

“Exciting to see our Country starting to open up again!” Trump tweeted on May 5.

And on May 18, he tweeted simply, “REOPEN OUR COUNTRY!”

On June 22, Trump suggested that the economic crisis caused by the pandemic would be over soon and that the millions of Americans who had become unemployed would find work again soon as states began to reopen.

“And we’ve done a good job,” he said, referring to his administration’s slow response to the pandemic, “but now we’re opening up our country and the jobs numbers are good. And they’re coming back very fast.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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