Breaking: Texas bars can open at 50% capacity soon, if county judge allows it

Texas Bars and nightclubs in areas with low COVID-19 hospitalizations will soon be able to reopen at a limited capacity, only if a county judge allows it, according to documents uploaded to Governor Greg Abbott’s website Wednesday afternoon.

The new guidelines, which will be effective Oct. 14, were posted a little after 3 p.m. You can read the protocols below.

Abbott released a video on his Facebook page detailing the new loosened restrictions. He claimed Texans have been able to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, even with current school and business operations in place.

“Today the seven-day average for the positivity rate, for the number of new COVID cases, for hospitalizations and fatalities have remained steady since I made my last announcement,” he said in the video.

He reminded Texans that while these establishments can reopen, safety protocols must be followed.

“Bars must follow distancing and seating protocols, just like restaurants have used,” Abbott said.

Additionally, businesses including amusement parks, movie theatres, zoos, aquariums, and bowling alleys can also expand to 75% capacity in counties with low hospitalizations starting Oct. 14.

Under the new guidelines, counties, where hospitalizations are less than 15% of hospital capacity, can also reopen all businesses other than bars to 75% capacity starting Oct. 14.

Central Texas judges react

Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape released a statement to KXAN shortly after the announcement.

“Ironically, I’ve heard nothing from the Governor’s office. One would think that the Governor would have contacted us County Judges directly about something this important,” Pape said in the statement. “I am seeking the counsel of our Local Health Authority and other policymakers.”

KXAN has asked county judges in Travis, Hays and Williamson Counties whether they plan to allow bars to reopen under the new guidelines. We are awaiting responses.

Abbott teased loosening COVID-19 restrictions on bars and nightclubs in the state Monday after he tweeted a GIF of a drinking glass with the caption “CHEERS!!!”

Reopening Texas bars concerned Austin Mayor Steve Adler. He said on Tuesday the main priority for the state right now should be to keep infections down, so schools can continue to reopen gradually.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more details become available soon.

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