Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Wednesday, August 11th (3:55 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,759,325 (14,214 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 10,463 (7,772 available beds, 368 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 52,667 (112 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Wednesday, August 11th (12:40 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 21,737,900
People vaccinated – 15,438,598
People fully vaccinated – 12,929,953
Total doses administered – 27,265,574
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Tuesday, August 10th was 18.68%. One month ago, there were 2,600 new cases reported, one week ago there were 15,600 new cases reported, compared to the 14,214 reported yesterday. The 10,463 COVID patients in hospitals now is 2,778 more patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 16.3% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 73,518 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Tuesday, August 10th, 44.6% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Senate Passes Election Bill After 15 Hour Filibuster
Senator Carol Alvarado (D, Houston) ended a 15 hour filibuster this morning against SB 1, the election bill. In the Senate, any member can filibuster any piece of legislation for an unlimited amount of time. During the filibuster, the member must stay at their desk, and are not allowed to eat or drink anything. Their remarks must be confined to the relative piece of legislation.
While Alvarado’s 15 hours is certainly a courageous and valiant accomplishment, it falls way short of the record for the longest filibuster in the Senate. In 1977, Sen. Bill Meier filibustered for 43 hours on the floor of the Texas Senate to protest a bill relating to the state’s open records law. The 43 hour filibuster is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest standing filibuster. After the 43 hour oration, Meier’s colleagues returned to the floor to approve the bill, which ultimately became law.
After Sen. Alvarado’s 15 hour filibuster today, the members of the Senate returned and approved the election bill, along a party line vote of 18-11.
Arrest Warrants Issued for Absent Democrats
On Tuesday evening, Speaker Dade Phelan signed 52 civil arrest warrants for House Democrats still missing from the Capitol. This is an attempt to gain a quorum needed for the chamber to resume operations and begin to address the legislation on the call of the current special session. The warrants allow law enforcement officers to arrest the absent members and bring them to the House chamber, but they will not face criminal charges. In response, the Chair of the Democratic caucus said that it is fully within their rights to break quorum and reiterated their commitment to continue their absence to fight against the election bill.
Texas Senate Continues Work
With the House lacking a quorum, the Senate has spent the week passing several of the bills on the call of the special session. In addition to the election bill mentioned above, the Senate has passed measures related to bail reform, additional annual check for retired teachers, property tax reform, and the funding of virtual learning in public schools. The one item the Senate has yet to address is the funding for the legislative branch that was vetoed by the Governor. The will await a House quorum before addressing that issue.
State Officials Move to Strike Down Local Mandates
Several local entities have recently enacted mask mandates in response to the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has ordered masks to be worn at all businesses, schools, and county facilities. The city of Austin and Travis Co. have issued mask mandates for all city and county buildings, and the Austin ISD has issued a mask mandate for returning students. Yesterday, Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton filed their first legal action to stop the ongoing mask mandates. The two asked a Dallas area appellate court to nullify the mask mandates issued in Dallas Co, stopping short of mentioning other mandates throughout the state. Paxton, in media interviews this morning, predicts that the state will get a very quick and initial favorable ruling from the appeals court, followed by a favorable ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that will ultimately deem all local mandates null and void.
Few ICU Beds Available, Official Warn of Pending Catastrophe
As COVID-19 surges faster than at any other point in the pandemic due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, Texas hospitals begin to run out of beds in their Intensive Care Units. Half of the state’s 22 trauma service areas reported 10 or fewer available ICU beds on Sunday. The state’s ICUs which are intended for the sickest and most injured patients have been flooded by over 10,000 COVID-19 patients leaving trauma service areas desperate. Laredo’s trauma service area reported no available ICU beds and Abilene’s reported having only one.
According to numbers reported to the federal government, at least 53 Texas hospitals have no available ICU capacity. In Austin, five hospitals were at or above 90% of their ICU capacity during the same period, with two reporting no available ICU beds.
Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County’s health authority, said last week that “this surge is by far the fastest and most aggressive that we’ve seen. Almost all of our hospitalizations are due to unvaccinated patients developing severe illness. ICU staff are seeing a younger population in our hospitals. Patients in the ICU are sicker and stay in the hospital longer than with prior surges, putting more strain on hospital resources.”
Senate Committee Hears Testimony on Pandemic
Leaders of some of Texas’ largest hospitals came together on Tuesday to warn lawmakers of the looming COVID-19 catastrophe and to plead for legal assistance. These leaders feel they are on the brink of disaster as they rapidly approach being completely overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
Official after official used their strongest descriptions to get the point across to legislators: Hospitalizations are rising too fast for them to keep up with, and it may be too late to do anything about it.
“While more vaccination is the only thing that can ultimately bring this pandemic to an end, we need more decisive actions now to prevent a catastrophe the likes of which we only imagined last year,” Dr. Esmaeil Porsa, CEO of Harris Health System in Houston, told the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday.
To add insult to injury, hospitals are struggling to hire nurses as rising hospitalization rates drive up both demand and the cost of paying nurses and other temporary health care workers. There are hundreds of empty positions and a fraction of the workforce hospitals need to fight this surge. Even if hospitals were to find candidates to fill these positions, they simply do not have the money to hire as many as they would need. Hospitals are asking legislators to help them track down and hire these nurses which would decrease the competition between the hospitals themselves.
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 about 9AM this morning after the filibuster ended. They passed the election bill and adjourned until Monday at 2PM.