Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Sunday, August 8th (2:00 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,728,670 (5,377 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 9,027 (8,263 available beds, 428 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 52,741 (28 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Monday, August 9th (12:45 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 21,702,660
People vaccinated – 15,346,852
People fully vaccinated – 12,889,294
Total doses administered – 27,138,740
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Saturday, August 7th was 18.39%. One month ago, there were 1,700 new cases reported, one week ago there were 11,800 new cases reported, compared to the 5,377 reported yesterday. The 9,027 COVID patients in hospitals now is 2,433 more patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 14.1% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 75,218 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Saturday, August 7th, 44.4% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
2nd Special Session Begins
Both the House and Senate convened at noon on Saturday to begin the Second Called Session. House Democrats have blocked a quorum for a third time in as many sessions. However, it is still unclear as to whether or not the Democrats intend to remain absent for the entire 30 day session. On Saturday afternoon, after the House attempted to convene, 26 House Democrats issued a statement saying they would be remain in Washington, DC as long as the Congress is considering federal voting legislation. With 83 Republicans, only 17 of the 67 Democrats are needed to achieve a quorum. Many House members on both sides of the aisle are expecting, or at least hoping, for a quorum to be established at some point this week.
With all 31 members present on Saturday, the Senate had a quorum and began to have committee hearings and have already passed several measures on the Governor’s call through their chamber. After successfully passing out of committee over the weekend, the Senate finally passed legislation related to bail reform, property tax reform, and the changing of primary election dates due to anticipated delays in the redistricting process. The Senate is currently hearing elections related legislation in committee, and will have that on the floor for consideration later this week.
No Arrests for Democrats
19 House Democrats filed a petition in Travis County District Court last week asking for a restraining order against Gov. Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan regarding their threat to arrest those absent from the legislative session. Last night, a state district judge issued an order blocking the arrest of any House member who has broken quorum. This will allow any of the members still out of state to return home without the threat of arrest. The order expires in 14 days, and the court will hear arguments on the original petition on August 20th. However, it is important to note that when the House convened on Saturday and did not achieve a quorum, there was no attempt to once again put a “call” on the House to find and detain the absent members.
COVID Related Issues Update
Hospitalizations continue to rise to levels not seen since January, as we are now at just over 9,000 COVID related hospitalizations in the state. The positivity rate is also nearing 20%. With this continued surge, attention is now focused on the return to schools. Mask mandates by school districts have been prohibited by Gov. Abbott, and now the Texas Education Agency has said school districts will not have to conduct contact tracing as part of their health guidance issued to school districts last week. The guidance does allow for remote learning for up to 20 days for students who are sick with COVID or have been exposed to it. Longer term remote learning has been defunded, but there is legislation pending this special session to return the allocation of funding for remote care.
Several school districts have said that these guidelines do not go far enough in protecting the teachers and students. This morning, Dallas ISD announced that they will require face masks to be worn by everyone on district property beginning tomorrow. This is in direct defiance to an earlier executive order issued by Gov. Abbott prohibiting school districts from issuing mask mandates. In Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo has come out in support of Houston ISD’s proposed mask requirements. The Houston ISD superintendent said he plans to bring the proposal to a vote at Thursday night’s board meeting.
Legislative Budget Board Partially Restores Legislative Funding
The funding of the entire legislative branch was vetoed by Governor Abbott as retaliation for the Democrats breaking quorum in the waning hours of the regular session. Abbott vetoed the entire Article of the state budget that funds the legislature, its staff, and all relative agencies and functions. Therefore, all funds for the legislature are due to run out on August 31st, the end of the state’s fiscal year. Citing an emergency, the Legislative Budget Board has requested a transfer of funds amounting to $12.6 million that will allow legislative agencies and employees to have funding through September 30th. This is a temporary fix, and the entirety of the funding still needs to be addressed. Restoration of the funding has been placed on the special session agenda to allow the lawmakers to pass a supplemental budget measure.
Political Quick Hits
Former state Rep. Jake Ellzey has vacated his state House seat following his win in the special election for Congressional District 6, based in Arlington. The special election to replace Ellzey in House District 10 will take place on August 31st. HD 10 is a solidly Republican district, encompassing largely rural areas south and southeast of Dallas. The only declared candidate so far is John Wray, a Republican from Waxahachie who held the seat for three terms before not seeking reelection in 2020.
State Rep. Leo Pacheco, a two term Democrat from San Antonio, announced over the weekend that he will be resigning from his House seat, which covers southern and eastern parts of Bexar County. Pacheco announced he is stepping down to take a full time faculty position at San Antonio College, where he will teach public administration. Pacheco has not given a specific date for his resignation, and a special election to fill this vacancy will have to be called at a future date. No candidates have come forward at this time.
The House will convene at 4PM today, and it remains to be seen if they will have the 100 members necessary to establish a quorum. The Senate convened at 11AM this morning, passed several bills related to the call of the session, and adjourned until 3PM Tuesday.