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Judge Lina Hidalgo Won’t Allow Harris County Bars to Reopen Just Yet

“Indoor, maskless gathering should not be taking place right now,” according to Hidalgo

Cocktails at Monkey’s Tail will have to wait
Shannon O’Hara for Monkey’s Tail

Bars in Harris County will not be reopening any time soon, despite an announcement from Greg Abbott on Wednesday afternoon that bars in Texas could reopen at 50 percent capacity.

Abbott announced in a Facebook video Wednesday afternoon that the state would allow bars in regions where COVID-19 hospitalizations account for 15 percent or less of that area’s hospital capacity to reopen, but stipulated that county governments must opt-in to the plan. Bars in Houston have been closed since late June.

Shortly after, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a statement saying that indoor, maskless gatherings — like hanging out inside a bar — are still a bad idea.

“The data guiding county decision-making tells us we are doing much better than we were a few months ago, but we are still at the highest level: red,” the statement read. “Indoor, maskless gatherings should not be taking place right now, and this applies to bars, as well.”

“We are moving in the right direction because of the community coming together and helping contain this virus. We must not let down our guard or we will be right back where we started.”

When asked by Eater to clarify the “should not be taking place” statement, a spokesperson for Hidalgo’s office said “The county will not be reopening bars at this time.”

At a press conference on September 17, Abbott pointed to bars as “COVID-19 spreading locations”, and reiterated his rational for keeping them closed. It was at that press conference that he also introduced a new metric for tracking COVID-19 severity in hospital regions across Texas — seven straight days in which coronavirus patients consist of less than 15 percent of total hospitalizations. Earlier that same week, COVID-19 cases in the Houston region fell below that threshold for the first time since May.

According to Click2Houston, the county judges in both Montgomery County and Galveston County, which border Houston, will allow their bars to reopen under Abbott’s new executive order. Fort Bend’s county judge is still reviewing the order, the station reported.

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