Texas restaurants will be allowed to expand their dining room capacities to 75 percent beginning Monday, September 21, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced during a press conference this afternoon. Bars will remain closed, and businesses are still required to follow social distancing guidelines. Masks will remain mandatory for everyone.
The re-opening metric is based on the number of hospitalizations in each region, which has to be less than 15 percent for seven days. Because of this, businesses in Victoria, Laredo, and the Rio Grande Valley are not allowed to expand their capacity limits.
Currently, Texas’s positivity rate is 7.9 percent; there have been nearly 70,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Texas, as of September 16.
This new order comes on the heels of a Texas Tribune report this week that discovered that the state’s positivity rate was much higher than reported when the governor launched his plan to reopen Texas in May. This is because the Texas DSHS said it would calculate the number of cases and positivity rates based on when they were given, as opposed to when the results were received.
At that time in spring, the positivity rate based on data from Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) was 5.84 percent, as the publication reported (the World Health Organization said that the 14-day positivity rate should be 5 percent or lower before states should reopen businesses). That number was really 8.4 percent.
The last time Gov. Abbott issued an order concerning restaurants and bars was in June, when bars were re-shuttered and restaurant dining room limits reverted to 50 percent from 75 percent amid the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state.
Since then, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has allowed bars to redesignate as restaurants by applying for food and beverage permits via expanding on-site kitchen offerings, partnering with food trucks, and/or offering prepackaged foods, thus being able to reopen for dine-in services.