US states curb alcohol sales as coronavirus cases surge

Three US states have now clamped down on bars and alcohol consumption again as the country’s daily number of coronavirus cases surged to an all-time high.

(Photo: iStock)

Bars have been told to close with immediate effect in seven Californian counties, as governor Gavin Newsom reversed some of the state’s lockdown easing measures from the past month.

Newsom ordered bars to shut in Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, San Joaquin and Tulare yesterday (28 June) as the US’ Department of Health reported a record rise in coronavirus cases.

Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, ordered bars to close on Friday 26 June, while Florida’s Ron DeSantis has stopped them from selling alcohol shortly after the state’s lockdown restrictions were eased. Outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people would also need approval from local officials.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (DABT) announced the alcohol ban on Twitter moments after the department of health recorded 8,942 new confirmed cases, topping the earlier record of 5,500 set on Wednesday 24 June.

Florida’s bars were only allowed to serve at 50% capacity when they reopened, with tables spaced six feet apart. This new order prevents any venue that makes more than half of its sales from alcoholic beverages from serving them in-site. Food-led venues are still allowed to serve alcohol to seated diners.

In Texas, lockdown measures were being eased from the start of May. This month, bars had been allowed to operate at 50% capacity, but its Republican governor forced their closure last week. He said the rise in cases was being driven by people heading to bars in large numbers.

“It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said.

Explaining the decision Dr Sonia Angel, director of the California Department of Public Health, said California lawmakers are “using data and science to guide” its response to the pandemic.

“We are actively monitoring Covid-19 across the state and working closely with counties where there are increased rates and concerning patterns of transmission.” Angel said. “Closing bars in these countries is one of a number of targeted actions counties are implementing across our state to slow the virus’ spread and reduce risk.

The states’ U-turn on easing lockdown comes as, in the UK, bars and restaurants are now preparing to open their doors again on 4 July.

“We are making these cautious, calibrated steps, we are opening as much of hospitality as we can on 4 July, opening as much of the economy as we can,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today (29 June), adding: “but to make all that possible we have to remain vigilant.”

There may now also be the possibility of local lockdowns in the UK. In response to a sudden flare-up in cases in Leicester, the city’s mayor said bars and restaurants may have to remain closed for two weeks after 4 July to control the outbreak.

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