“Openin’ ’em up, boys,” Gov. Greg Abbott told bar owners in early June.

Shouts of joy resounded across the Lone Star State, and Texans flooded the bars, many ignoring social distancing requirements and other COVID-19 guidelines. Gov. Abbott didn’t order anyone to wear masks, but strongly requested it. He also warned repeatedly that if infections rose, he would be forced to order stricter actions during his Open Texas press conferences.

Three weeks later, Abbott announced, “We’re shuttin’ ’em down.”

Bar owners really can’t seem to catch a break. Neither can owners of river rafting and tubing businesses. Abbott’s new executive order, issued Friday, forces bars and river rafters to shut their doors by noon, and orders restaurants to scale back to 50 percent capacity by Monday.

He did offer one caveat for bar owners: “These businesses may remain open for delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission,” according to his Friday morning press release.

Abbott also banned gatherings of more than 100 people, which means Fourth of July celebrations will probably be virtual. 

“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. The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and enhance public health.” 

It’s a far more sweeping move than Abbott’s announcement Thursday when he put an end temporarily to elective surgeries but only in certain counties–Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties–where COVID-19 cases are spiking.

“We want this to be as limited in duration as possible,” Abbott continued. “However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part. Every Texan has a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to wear a mask, wash their hands, stay six feet apart from others in public, and stay home if they can. 

“I know that our collective action can lead to a reduction in the spread of COVID-19 because we have done it before, and we will do it again.”

Christian McPhate

Christian has been working as a freelance journalist in North Texas for more than a decade. His stories have appeared in the Dallas Observer, the Houston Press, and Rolling Stone magazine. He covers a...