Austin joins big Texas cities in limiting bars, restaurants

Visitors walk past a restaurant on the River Walk, Monday, March 16, 2020, in San Antonio. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people across the U.S. to cancel or postpone events with 50 or more attendees for the next eight weeks to try to contain the fast-moving coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Austin joined other major Texas cities Tuesday in closing bars and restaurant dining rooms to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, after the state announced its first death related to COVID-19.

Dr. Mark Escott, director of Austin-Travis County Health Authority, also announced that public gatherings in the Texas capital must be limited to 10 people, following recommendations released a day earlier by the Trump administration.

On Monday, Dallas restricted public gatherings to 50 people. Houston has also enacted restrictions on bars, clubs and restaurants in hopes of keeping people home.

Also Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott activated the Texas National Guard in response to the outbreak, describing it as a “preparative measure.” Abbott said there were no current plans for deployments.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Along the Texas coast, Matagorda County health officials announced that a man in his late 90s who died had tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Officials said they were reviewing a possible community link between the man and the county’s first COVID-19 case, a 60-year-old woman who is being treated at a hospital for pneumonia. The woman traveled around Texas but had not left the state, said Mitch Thames, a county spokesman.

Thames said it would not be unusual if the man and the woman had some sort of connection.

“That’s not uncommon in Bay City (the county seat). We’re a small town. Our entire county has about 36,000 in it. Heck we’re related to most everybody and friends with the others,” Thames said.

“We’re going to embrace the family once we find out who it is,” he said. “We’re going to pull together just like we do.”

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