Video report by ITV News Reporter Ivor Bennett
Two of America’s largest states have reversed course and clamped down on bars again in the nation’s biggest retreat yet as the daily number of confirmed infections in the US surged to an all-time high of 40,000.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all bars closed Friday, while Florida banned alcohol at such establishments.
The two states joined a small but growing number that are either backtracking or putting any further reopening of their economies on hold because of a comeback by the virus, mostly in the country’s South and West.
Health experts have said a disturbingly large number of cases are being seen among young people who are going out again, often without wearing masks or observing other social-distancing rules.
“It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said.
Abbott, a Republican who had pursued up one of the most aggressive reopening schedules of any governor, scaled back restaurant capacity and said outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people would need approval from local officials.
In Florida, under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the agency that regulates bars acted after the daily number of new confirmed cases neared 9,000, almost doubling the record set just two days earlier.
The Florida agency that governs bars announced the alcohol ban on Twitter just minutes after the Department of Health reported 8,942 new confirmed cases, topping the previous record of 5,500 set on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced he would sign an executive order closing beaches in the county over the Fourth of July weekend.
“I have decided that the only prudent thing to do to tamp down this recent uptick is to crack down on recreational activities that put our overall community at higher risk,” he said in a statement.
Bars, like restaurants, were supposed to limit patrons to 50% of their normal capacity, under the state’s emergency orders. Patrons had to sit at tables, with groups six feet apart. No congregating at the bar or on the dance floor was permitted.
The new order prohibits any establishment that makes more than 50% of its revenue from alcohol sales from serving alcohol for consumption on site.
Restaurants that primarily sell food can still serve alcohol to customers seated at tables.
At the task force briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, urged people to mind their responsibility to others: “A risk for you is not just isolated to you.”
Deaths from the coronavirus in the US are running at about 600 per day, down from a peak of around 2,200 in mid-April. Some experts have expressed doubt that deaths will return to that level, because of advances in treatment and prevention and because younger adults are more likely than older ones to survive.
In a reversal of fortune, New York said it is offering equipment and other help to Arizona, Texas and Florida, noting that other states came to its aid when it was in the throes of the deadliest outbreak in the nation this spring.
“We will never forget that graciousness, and we will repay it any way we can,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Coronavirus: All you need to know