Gov. Greg Abbott discusses bars, college football in latest COVID-19 update

Governor: Bars cannot reopen until COVID-19 positivity rate drops below 10%

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread at a significant rate across Texas, the future is still unclear for two major industries in the Lone Star State — bars and college football.

Gov. Greg Abbott took questions on both topics during a COVID-19 briefing held Tuesday in Beaumont.

Although COVID-19 hospitalizations are on a downward trend across the state, the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is at nearly 21%, according to the state’s dashboard, the highest it has been in months.

That metric is a troubling sign for struggling bar owners looking to reopen, an industry Abbott said he’s “very concerned” about.

“They are lacking the income they need to pay their bills to keep their business open to pay the rent and to put food on the table,” Abbott said.

TABC says it will shut down bars, revoke licenses if they remain open despite Gov. Abbott’s closure order

Despite that, Abbott said the positivity rate needs to fall “well below” 10% for a sustained period of time, and hospitalizations need to come back to the levels they were in May.

The governor linked the rise in cases over the summer months to bar gatherings and increased occupancy at Texas business.

When bars are allowed to reopen, Abbott said owners have to be strict about the protocols.

“When (patrons) become intoxicated, they lose the discipline that they need to maintain the practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said. “As a result, it requires extra vigilance from the part of the owners of those types of establishments to prevent those establishments to become spreading events of COVID-19.”

As the fall semester approaches, all eyes are on college sports. Many of the major football conferences appear to be leaning toward postponement or cancellation, even though college football players have expressed their desires to play in the upcoming season.

Though Abbott has not had a discussion with university athletic directors since conferences began canceling football season, he said the “health, safety and careers” of the athletes should come first.

“If they choose to continue to play this season, we need to make sure the universities are working with them on protocols to ensure their health and safety during the course of the season,” Abbott said.

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