Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday August 16th (3:40 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,813,831 (5,343 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 11,791 (7,851 available beds, 327 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 53,100 (9 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Monday, August 16th (1:30 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 21,804,770
People vaccinated – 15,762,005
People fully vaccinated – 13,111,970
Total doses administered – 27,757,076
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Sunday, August 15th was 17.81%. One month ago, there were 3,500 new cases reported, one week ago there were 14,200 new cases reported, compared to the 5,343 reported yesterday. The 11,791 COVID patients in hospitals now is 2,329 more patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 18.9% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 71,373 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Sunday, August 15th, 45.2% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
State Capitol Building Floods
Austin experienced torrential rainfall on Sunday afternoon, with downtown receiving almost 4 inches of rain in a 2 hour period. Water rushed in to parts of the Texas State Capitol on Sunday night as Austin was slammed with flash flooding, and the building was closed temporarily. Videos shared by staffers showed water in an underground portion of the Capitol as rain poured in from windows above. Parts of The University of Texas faced surprise flooding as well amidst the heavy rains.
Gov. Abbott, via Twitter, ensured that it was “all hands on deck” as they worked to address the flooding. The State Preservation Board told claimed that the flooding was due to a clogged storm drain, and the damage was contained to offices in two hallways of the Capitol’s extension building. By Sunday night, the situation was under control, and the building reopened Monday morning.
Confusion Over Mask Mandates
State and local officials continue to spar over who has the right to issue mask mandates and which orders prevail. A number of cities, counties, and school districts have passed mask mandate orders in defiance of Gov. Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates. Dallas County has the most comprehensive mask mandate in place, requiring masks to be worn at businesses, public schools, colleges, and all government buildings. Bexar County (San Antonio) is requiring masks in all K-12 public school classes. The Texas Supreme Court has temporarily stopped those mandates, but Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has declared that the ruling does not affect his mask order, only that businesses cannot be fined if they don’t comply. The day after the Supreme Court decision, a district judge in Travis County issued a restraining order that blocks the Governor’s order that prohibits masks in schools. The judge declared the order applied statewide, not to only the Austin area.
The latest locality to issue a mask order is El Paso. The city has passed an order to require masks in public buildings and public schools.
The patchwork of lawsuits, temporary orders, and endless court hearings has created mass confusion for people as they try to go about their daily lives and get their children ready for school.
Finding the Absent Democrats
The Legislature has now gone 34 days over two special sessions without a quorum in the state House. Over the weekend, state law enforcement was deputized to go and track down the absent members and return them to the Capitol. This came just after the state Supreme Court cleared the way for civil arrest warrants for absent members. Law enforcement officers are now charged with “assisting the House’s efforts to compel a quorum”. When – or if – absent lawmakers return, they will not be subject to criminal penalties or fines. According to the Speaker’s office, the effort began in earnest on Saturday, when law enforcement went to the residences of several House members. This effort was to no avail, as no member has been returned to the chamber at this time.
Census Numbers Arrive
Last Friday, the US Census Bureau released data needed for the redistricting process in the state. With this local level and demographic data, the state can now begin the once every 10 year process of redrawing the state House and Senate districts, as well as Congressional districts. The state now has a total population of 29.1 million people with a voting age population of 21.8 million, which is an additional 3.6 million voting age citizens as compared to the 2010 census.
Texas is the fourth most diverse state in the union with a population that is 39.7% white, 39.3% Hispanic, 11.8% Black, and 5.4% Asian-American. Texas gained 11 Hispanic, 3 Black, and 3 Asian-Americans for every one additional White resident since 2010. Other highlights of the census numbers:
- Four of the nation’s 10 fastest growing municipalities (Conroe, Frisco, McKinney, New Braunfels) are suburbs of Texas’ biggest cities – this means Texas will play a big part in the redistricting battle for control of Congress. Nationwide, 14 cities gained at least 100K new residents. Five are in Texas: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.
- Texas grew less white and more urban in the last decade – following the same trend seen across the entire country.
- Similar to other parts of the U.S., Texas’ rural areas have shrunk. 143 of the state’s rural counties lost population during the decade. Of those, 41 counties lost 10% of more of their population.
- The 15 fastest growing counties are Hays +53%, Comal +49%, Williamson +44%, Kaufman +41%, Fort Bend +41%, Rockwall +38%, Denton +37%, Montgomery+36%, Collin +36%, Chambers +33%, Kendall +33%, Waller +32%, Guadalupe +31%, Bastrop +31%, Ellis +29%.
With Republicans holding a majority of the state’s Congressional and Statehouse seats in both chambers, they will have full control over the redistricting process. If Democrats continue their flee from the Capitol, the Redistricting Committee will be unable to meet and the redistricting lines would be up to the courts or taken up in the next regular legislative session, set for 2023 — after midterm congressional elections.
Political Quick Hits
Recently elected to Congress, former state Rep. Jake Ellzey has endorsed John Wray to be his successor in the state House. Wray is one of 8 candidates – 5 Republicans, 1 Democrat, 1 Libertarian, and 1 independent – vying to succeed Ellzey in the August 31st special election.
Amarillo state Senator Kel Seliger has drawn two Republican primary challengers to his 2022 reelection bid. Seliger is often criticized for his more moderate philosophy and has drawn primary challenges from the right in past election cycles. Oil and gas businessman Kevin Sparks from Midland recently joined Stormy Bradley as candidates in the primary. Bradley is a member of the school board in Big Spring and announced her bid several weeks ago.
In House District 118, candidates have emerged thus far in the yet to be determined special election to fill the vacancy when San Antonio Democrat Leo Pacheco announced his resignation to join the faculty of a local junior college. John Lujan, a Republican and Pacheco’s predecessor has said he will run, as has Adam Salyer, the Republican nominee in 2020. Katie Farias, a member of the Southside ISD who had already been planning a primary challenge to Pacheco before his announcement, says she will still run.
The House convened at 11AM today, and still do not have the 100 members necessary to establish a quorum. The House will try again at 2PM tomorrow. The Senate convened at 2PM on Monday and immediately adjourned until Thursday morning.