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Gov. Abbott Announces Next Phase: Restaurants to Open Even More

While dining rooms can expand to 75 percent soon, some establishments close temporarily.

By Timothy Malcolm June 3, 2020

Shun Japanese Kitchen in full operation. The restaurant is closed temporarily to test employees.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in a press release Wednesday announcing that all restaurants statewide can open to 75 percent of their standard capacity on June 12. Also, effective immediately, bars and other businesses previously capped at 25-percent capacity can expand to bring in up to 50 percent of their standard capacity, as long as patrons are seated.

Other guidelines: Restaurants can seat up to 10 people at a table, and tables must be kept at least four feet apart with partitions established to separate parties.

"The people of Texas continue to prove that we can safely and responsibly open our state for business while containing COVID-19 and keeping our state safe,” Abbott said in the release. "As anticipated, the new positive cases that we are seeing are largely the result of isolated hot spots in nursing homes, jails, and meat packing plants."

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, there have been 68,271 cases of COVID-19 in Texas, as of Wednesday. One week ago, there were 57,921 cumulative cases, and two weeks ago, there were 51,323 cumulative cases. In other words, 56 percent more cases were diagnosed last week in comparison to the week before.

On May 22, restaurants across Texas were permitted to open their dining rooms to a maximum of 50 percent of its standard capacity. At the same time, bars, breweries, and wine tasting rooms were allowed to open to 25 percent capacity.

Just in the past few days, some establishments have closed temporarily, either because employees have tested positive for COVID-19 or have shown symptoms of the virus, or because conditions weren't optimal for stopping the spread of the virus.

Over the weekend, FM Kitchen and Bar announced via Instagram that a non-customer-facing employee, who last worked at the restaurant on May 23, was quarantined with COVID-like symptoms. In response, the restaurant closed for deep cleaning; moreover, all employees were required to get tested for the virus before returning to work.

"This event reinforces our absolute dedication to maintaining the strictest protocols and we will continue to implement these safety standards until we believe it is safe to do otherwise," read its announcement.

Meanwhile, Shun Japanese Kitchen closed for the week, citing an abundance of caution. "As the pandemic and riots have not been getting any better, we as a family have decided to all get ourselves treated to ensure the safety of ourselves, our loved ones and of course our guests," read an Instagram post Tuesday.

Shun noted in its post that no staff member has reported symptoms of COVID-19, and if all tests return negative, the restaurant will reopen Saturday.

Then, earlier today, the newly opened Musaafer, which closed with the Galleria as anti-racism protests ramped up nationwide, announced it would stay temporarily closed because a member of its staff tested positive for COVID-19. In response, all staff will be tested as the restaurant undergoes "rigorous sanitation and disinfectant measures."

"We are overwhelmed by the support we have received from Houston since opening our doors, and are looking forward to serving you again in Musaafer very soon," read a statement.

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