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Houston Moves to ‘Severe’ Covid Warning. Will Enough People Listen?

Harris County, home to about 4.7 million people, has seen a sudden rise in reported cases over the last few weeks. There have now been at least 28,255 cases in the county and 361 deaths, a majority of which have come from within Houston’s city limits.

But despite Ms. Hidalgo’s urging residents to stay home, the county is not under a stay-at-home order as it was two months ago because Mr. Abbott’s reopening guidelines supersede Ms. Hidalgo’s recommendations. She said at the news conference that she had urged the governor to let her issue an enforceable stay-at-home order, and when that did not happen, she pleaded with residents to remain at home voluntarily.

At Gatlin’s BBQ in Houston, the restaurant owners kept a tighter limit on customers than the state guidelines require because Mary Gatlin, 69, a co-owner, felt it was simply too soon. They have been mostly serving takeout and allowing customers at only 25 percent of full capacity. Even so, they are sometimes selling out of brisket and ribs.

“Our neighbors all around the area, they actually support us, and we really thank God for them, because they’re helping to keep us open and to keep the employees that we have working,” Ms. Gatlin said.

Houstonians are not the only ones who have had to deal with whipsawing public health guidelines. In Florida, where cases are also rising, officials banned alcohol consumption at bars, an acknowledgment that infections could be spreading there. Bars in and around Boise, Idaho, were ordered closed only weeks after they had opened.

Russ Duke, the director of the state health agency in Idaho that oversees four central counties, moved Ada County, which includes Boise, back one stage in its reopening progression this week after investigators determined that half of the region’s new cases were among people who had flocked to the just-opened bars and nightclubs. Mr. Duke said it seemed increasingly clear that reopening would have to happen slowly and cautiously, allowing a reversal to more restrictive measures if things got worse.


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