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Bars in state's most populous, western counties stay shut

1 month 2 weeks 5 days ago Wednesday, October 14 2020 Oct 14, 2020 October 14, 2020 5:06 PM October 14, 2020 in News - AP Texas Headlines

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — While bars in much of Texas were allowed to reopen Wednesday, county judges in most of the state’s most populous counties are keeping taps closed.

Gov. Greg Abbott delegated to the county leaders the option of allowing taprooms to reopen Wednesday with occupancy limited to 50% capacity. Taverns in most of the counties in the eastern half of the state and some in the western half may reopen.

Nevertheless, with coronavirus case number escalating, county judges in most of the state’s most populous counties — including Democrat-led Dallas, Harris, Bexar and El Paso, Nueces, Webb and the Lower Rio Grande counties — have joined the leaders of most West Texas counties in opting out of allowing drinking establishments to reopen, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission website.

Republican-led Tarrant County is the only major Texas population center to allow taps to flow. The county, with the state's third-biggest population, has the state's third-most coronavirus cases reported since the outbreak started in early March. It has reported more than 2,000 new cases this week, 454 of them Wednesday.

In Galveston County, Republican County Judge Mark Henry hosted a “happy hour” at a San Leon distillery Wednesday to mark the reopening of the bars in that county.

Texas health officials reported 4,564 new cases Wednesday, with 262 previously unreported cases bringing the daily increase to 4,826. The newly reported cases raised to 805,082 the total caseload reported in Texas since tracking and tracing of the pandemic began in March, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported.

An estimated 78,639 of those cases were active with 4,131 requiring hospitalization.

The true number of cases in Texas is likely higher though because many people haven’t been tested and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday the creation of a COVID-19 Rapid Testing Pilot Program to help schools conduct rapid coronavirus tests of district employees and students.

At launch, the program will have six public school districts participating: Fabens, Granger, Lampasas, Longview, Harlingen Consolidated and Ysleta. Also participating will be one charter school, Bob Hope School in Port Arthur, and one private school, Grace Community School in Tyler, with plans to significantly ramp up the program across the state, according to a statement from Abbott's office.

The state reported 95 COVID-19 fatalities Wednesday, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 16,717.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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