Gov. Greg Abbott announced new statewide restrictions to closes dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms across the State of Texas.
Dining areas at restaurants and bars in Houston, Dallas, Austin and in San Antonio had already been closed but the governor extended that order to every restaurant and bar in Texas.
The order goes into effect at 11;59 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 20 and will go on until April 3, with an extension pending.
Critical operations like grocery stores and pharmacies are allowed to remain open. Takeout/delivery will be allowed. All schools across the state are also closed.
Gov. Abbott also announced the closures of gyms and said that everyone should be practicing social distancing and added that there should no visiting nursing homes if you’re feeling sick.
The executive order reflects federal guidance that came out earlier this week.
“Working together, we must defeat COVID-19 with the only tool that we have available to us — we must strangle its expansion by reducing the ways that we are currently transmitting it,” Abbott said, flanked by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. “We are doing this now, today, so that we can get back to business as usual more quickly.”
Abbott’s announcement is a remarkable shift after he spent days deferring to local officials on virus-related issues such as business and school closures. But he said Texas’ historical approach to disaster response was being tested by a rapidly evolving situation, noting that, for example, there were 39 confirmed cases in Texas when he made his initial disaster declaration six days ago and now there are more than 140 cases.
“The traditional model that we have employed in the state of Texas for such a long time so effectively does not apply to an invisible disease that knows no geographic and no jurisdictional boundaries and threatens the lives of our fellow Americans across the entire country,” Abbott said.
Abbott also announced that state health commissioner John Hellerstedt declared a public health disaster earlier Thursday. Abbott said it is his understanding that the last time such a declaration was made in Texas was 1901.
PATRICK SVITEK with Texas Tribune contributed to this story.
Photo: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune