Gov. Abbott issues OK for bars to reopen

A sign posted in the window of Bliss Lounge, 2413 Strand in Galveston, lets patrons know that all bars in the state are closed on Friday, June 26, 2020. Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, gave the OK for bars to reopen, so long as county leaders agreed. Judge Mark Henry moved to reopen Galveston County bars immediately.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday he was giving the OK for bars to open next week, with some stipulations.

Pandemic precautions need to be in place, of course, and COVID-19 positivity rates need to be considered. But the biggest condition lies with county leadership. Abbott left it up to county leaders to decide whether bars in their jurisdictions can open.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry announced almost before the governor’s social media post got its first “like” that he would be reopening the county’s bars “immediately.”

And he wasn’t kidding. On Thursday, Henry said Galveston County bars needn’t even wait until Wednesday — the governor’s announced day — to reopen.

“We’re telling any small business to be safe and open up the way you would do it considering the circumstances,” Henry said Thursday. “We’re not going to put in any effort into enforcing it between now and then. What’s the point of issuing an order between now and next week? That makes no sense to me.”

He also said the county wouldn’t enforce social distancing and other pandemic-related precautions inside bars. Rather, bar owners would be responsible for ensuring that staff and patrons comply.

“I want the business to operate in a safe manner,” Henry said. “If they don’t, they can go down on their own accord. They shouldn’t have the government dictating what we think makes sense.”

Reopening the bars is a good thing. We agree with what seems to be a majority opinion in the county: “It’s about time.” It’s good news for bar owners and their customers, and it’s good news for the local economy.

Only time will tell if reopening bars will cause infection rates to increase. The same is true of any new spate of reopenings, reconvenings and resumptions.

But with the proper precautions in place, we’ve been allowed to eat in restaurants for months now, so why should bars be any different? Like Mike Dean, owner of various establishments in Galveston, said Thursday, “If it’s 6-foot social distancing and masks, what does it matter what you’ve got in your mouth?”

And we’ve been allowed to go to church and to shop and to travel in trains, planes and automobiles. Whether you’re sitting on a barstool or in a church pew, the virus is out there, waiting for you to get stupid. The best way to avoid it is to stay smart and take the proper precautions, such as wearing masks and keeping 6 feet from others.

If you’re in a group especially at risk because of some physical condition, you need to stay even smarter and avoid any situation that might get you infected.

It was time for bars to reopen. And for restaurants to increase their seating capacity. Just as it’s time for life as we know it — or knew it — to resume. But with conditions and common sense. Masking, social distancing, limited gatherings, frequent and proper hand washing and an increased focus on hygiene and sanitization all will go a long way toward helping us coexist with COVID, which it looks like we’re going to have to do for the foreseeable future.

We’re glad of this most recent step toward getting things back to normal and giving more Galveston County businesses the opportunity to regroup and make money again.

And we’re hoping that a sense of personal responsibility continues to spread and deepen among all of us so that we can continue moving, safely, in the right direction.

• Margaret Battistelli Gardner

Margaret Battistelli Gardner: 409.683.5227; Margaret.Gardner@galvnews.com

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Deputy Managing Editor

Margaret joined The Daily New in December 2019, bringing more than 20 years of editorial experience to the team. A Philadelphia native, she lives in Galveston County with her husband, Steve, and their dog Nanook.

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(2) comments

Wayne D Holt

I applaud the GCDN and its vocal support to "get back to life" now. Ms. Gardner joins Laura Elder and Michael Smith in common sense advice that the time to cope with this virus in a different way is upon us. And I appreciate that there seems to be a strong suggestion the way to do that is voluntary in nature, not with a spate of emergency decrees and a lock-down mentality.

Be courteous to others if they are either in a higher risk group or simply are more concerned; give them a wide berth and be pleasant about it. Everyone has different ideas about what is appropriate and we should exercise our choice in a way that doesn't impinge on others, if at all possible.

There are still many, many blurry notions about this virus that we accept as gospel when they are anything but. One example: the widespread practice of taking one's temperature to see if a person should be allowed in a facility. Did you know that is likely to allow rhinovirus and Covid-19 carriers in and keep out those with common influenza? It's true, if you believe Dr. Nancy Hiu Lan Leung the lead researcher from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control.

In a 2020 research study "Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks," they found, "Overall, 24% of participants had a measured fever ≥37.8 °C, with patients with influenza more than twice as likely than patients infected with coronavirus and rhinovirus to have a measured fever."

While the study supported the use of masks to lessen the risk of symptomatic people spreading the virus, the asymptomatic did not pose the same risk when not wearing a mask, finding that among the samples collected without a face mask, the majority of participants with influenza virus and coronavirus infection did not shed detectable virus in respiratory droplets or aerosols. The study went on to say this might imply that prolonged close contact would be required for transmission to occur, even if transmission was primarily via aerosols, as has been described for rhinovirus colds.

So as we (hopefully) return to some measure of normalcy, be courteous to those who choose to wear a mask and to those who choose not to. You will not be infected by passing by someone in a store and certainly not outdoors. Be prudent but not petrified and don't forget to smell the roses, either with or without a mask on.

George Soros

While I agree with most of what you said, relying on Americans to be courteous and exercise judgement with regards to wearing a mask or not, is a very dangerous game.

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