Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expands business capacity, keeps bars closed

Governor cites declining hospitalization rates as businesses can increase capacity to 75%

SAN ANTONIO – In most of Texas, businesses can now increase their capacity as the state has begun slowing the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday.

Starting Monday, businesses including restaurants, gyms, retail stores, museums and offices can increase their capacity to 75%, up from 50%, Abbott said during his news conference. Other businesses, like movie theaters, bowling alleys, water parks and amusement parks must remain at 50% capacity, however.

Nursing home facilities and long-term care facilities can also resume visitations and hospitals in most regions can resume elective surgeries, he said.

A full list of the businesses that are eligible to expand capacity can be found here.

The reopenings cannot take place across the entire state, however. In regions where COVID-19 hospitalizations make up more than 15% of admissions, businesses there must remain in the current stage of 50% capacity. Those regions include the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and Victoria, Abbott said.

“Texans have shown that we can address both the health and safety concerns of COVID while also taking care of the measured steps to restore the livelihood that Texans desperately needed,” Abbott said.

Bars, however, must remain closed as they are “nationally recognized as COVID spreading locations,” he said.

“It is important for (bar owners) to know that we are focused on finding ways to get them open,” Abbott said.

Bars that have recategorized as restaurants can increase their capacity like other businesses.

In making the announcement, Abbott also revealed that state officials will now “most heavily rely” on hospitalizations. Previously, Abbott focused more on the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests. The state’s dashboard states the COVID-19 positivity rate fell below 10% on Sept. 1.

Abbott’s announcement was criticized by Texas Deocratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia, who said the pandemic “never had to be this bad.”

“From pushing dirty data to rolling back health and safety policies, Trump and Abbott will not give consumers the confidence they need to restore our economy and they have already proven they don’t give a damn about the safety of our workers,” Garcia said. “It’s time for real leadership in Austin and Washington.”

The governor’s update came a day after Texas health officials reported more than 3,400 new COVID-19 cases and 135 new deaths on Wednesday. More than 14,400 people have died from the virus in Texas, and more than 674,000 cases have been confirmed in the state. San Antonio has reported 50,284 total COVID-19 cases and 1,022 total deaths.

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