(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday issued broad statewide restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus, including limiting public gatherings of 10 people or more and closing in-dining at restaurants and bars, and closing gyms and schools.
Since Abbott first issued a disaster declaration in Texas on Friday, the number of positive coronavirus cases has grown by 300 percent, he said.
Total confirmed statewide cases to date are 243 in 27 counties, with three reported deaths. At least 2,335 people have been tested at 872 labs in the state.
Roughly 35 confirmed cases are pending county assignment, according to the Department of State Health Services. Counties with the highest confirmed cases are in Dallas (20) and Harris (10).
Restaurant and bar restrictions allow drive through, pick up and delivery. School closures allow for districts to teach using online learning tools. A shelter-in-place order is not in effect.
The governor’s order takes effect midnight Friday, March 19, and ends midnight April 3.
“All jurisdictions must work to contain the spread of COVID-19 for at least the next two weeks,” Abbott said Thursday at a news conference. The restrictions are not a shelter-in-place order for the state, he added.
The governor’s order also halts visitations to nursing homes and assisted living centers, with the exception of those in critical care.
He also issued a waiver to allow restaurants to deliver beer, wine and mixed drinks while their dining rooms are closed, as well as approving a buy-back waiver, which allows distributors and manufactures to purchase inventory from Texas establishments affected by cancellations and closures due to the coronavirus.
Department of State Health Services Commissioner, Dr. John Hellerstedt, issued a statewide public health disaster declaration Thursday, the first time since 1901.
Abbott’s latest orders on social distancing and restaurant closures presented a statewide response to a patchwork of local regulations that had been implemented by local governments for bars and restaurants across the state. Travis County, for example, ordered all bars and restaurant dining rooms closed on Tuesday. Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt signed two orders enacting the restrictions that also prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued a fourth emergency declaration Wednesday, ordering non-essential businesses to close.
In Harris County, jury service has been suspended through March 31, according to the Harris County District Clerk's Office. In-person services through the district clerk's office are also closed.
The Port of Houston closed two terminals Thursday after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus.
Walmart announced it is hosting an hour-long shopping event one hour before the store opens dedicated solely for people age 60 and older from March 24 to April 28. Store pharmacies and vision centers will be open during this time.
The governor’s order could be extended beyond April 3.