AUSTIN, Texas — Texas surpassed 5,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients for the first time Friday afternoon as Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledged in an interview with ABC-7 that he allowed bars in the state to reopen too soon.
"If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the re-opening of bars," the governor said, expressing regret over his decision and "now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting."
The lesson Abbott said he learned is that "a bar setting, in reality, just doesn't work with a pandemic." He noted that patrons "go to bars to get close and to drink and to socialize, and that's the kind of thing that stokes the spread of the coronavirus."
Earlier Friday, Abbott once again ordered bars across the state shut down indefinitely and directed restaurant dining rooms to scale back on seating customers.
The dramatic reversal came as confirmed virus cases surge to record levels after the state embarked on one of America’s fastest re-openings.
In the last four days alone, Texas has reported more than 23,000 confirmed new cases, and Friday surpassed 5,000 hospitalizations for the first time — a skyrocketing threefold increase from a month ago.
The governor's action to close bars Friday also came after the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission suspended the liquor licenses of 12 bars across the state, including two in El Paso, over the past week who were found to be in violation of the state’s protocols to slow the virus' spread.
That crackdown had been ordered by Abbott after videos and photos surfaced on social media showing crowded bars in some areas of the state with seemingly no social distancing.