Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Wednesday, August 18th (2:35 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,855,024 (20,058 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 12,402 (7,368 available beds, 322 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 53,370 (174 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Thursday, August 19th (12:45 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 21,985,830
People vaccinated – 15,913,964
People fully vaccinated – 13,218,741
Total doses administered – 28,007,009
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Tuesday, August 17th was 18.42%. One month ago, there were 3,600 new cases reported, one week ago there were 12,000 new cases reported, compared to the 20,058 reported yesterday. The 12,402 COVID patients in hospitals now is 1,939 more patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 19.4% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 71,578 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Tuesday, August 17th, 45.4% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
House Quorum Number Shrinking
With a full membership of 150, the 2/3rds number required by the Constitution to conduct business is 100. However, the House now has two vacancies. Waxahachie Rep. Jake Ellzey recently left the House after winning a special election to Congress, and San Antonio House member Leo Pacheco resigned effective today to accept a full time faculty job at a local junior college. With those vacancies, the membership of the House now sits at 148. Thus, the number now needed to achieve a quorum is 99. The last roll call that was taken was on August 9th, the third day of this special session. At that point, there were 95 members present. Democrat Garnet Coleman of Houston announced yesterday that he would return to session today. However, the numbers even out due to the fact that Republican Rep. Steve Allison of San Antonio has tested positive for COVID and will not return to the chamber for several days.
Rumors abound that several Democrats are on the verge of returning. The House meets at 4PM today, and I will let you know if a quorum is achieved.
End in Sight for the Surge??
The new delta variant is infecting on average more than 10,000 people per day, and is straining our health care facilities. Hospitalization numbers are nearing the peak number of just over 14,000 that occurred in January. More than 12,000 COVID patients were in state hospitals as of Wednesday. The state has been averaging about 100 deaths per day recently. That number could rise to closer to a 150 deaths per day average in the coming weeks, but is still much lower than the 350 deaths per day average seen earlier this year. Still, with the numbers rising as they have been, state health experts think that within a month, those numbers will begin to taper off. The reason, mainly is because our senior population is largely vaccinated and the patients being hospitalized are much younger than the previous two surges.
In Austin for example, county health officials point to the fact that the rolling average of new hospital admissions point to a plateau. The rolling daily average for new hospital admissions in the Austin region for the last two weeks has remained relatively steady, bouncing between 76 and 83 new hospitalizations per day. Health officials point to the large percentage of vaccinated residents as the main reason that hospitalizations are beginning to plateau. In Travis County, 76% of all residents over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 65% are fully vaccinated.
Abbott Silent on Condition
On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Abbott revealed that he had tested positive for COVID. He released a video acknowledging the positive test, and said he is feeling no symptoms and would isolate in the Governor’s Mansion. Abbott went on to say that he credited the vaccine he has taken as the reason for his lack of symptoms at the moment, and that he would be taking Regeneron antibody treatment. Regeneron is usually reserved for COVID patients who are experiencing symptoms. Since then, the only communication from Abbott has been through Twitter, where he has commented on various political issues, but neither he nor his office have given any update on his health condition.
Mask Mandate Fight Intensifies
Attorney General Ken Paxton has put together a list of 50 public school districts and several counties he claims are violating the state ban on local mask mandates. There are over 1,000 independent school districts in the state’s 254 counties. The violators include the largest districts and most populous counties such as the counties of Dallas, Harris, Bexar, and San Antonio. School districts listed are Dallas ISD, Houston ISD, San Antonio ISD, and Austin ISD. Paxton has asked the Texas Supreme Court to overturn these mandates.
This comes as the Biden Administration said Wednesday that they will use the US Department of Education’s civil rights enforcement authority to stop states from blocking mask mandates in schools. In the end, this battle will end up in the courts, as all other relative battles have done.
Interestingly enough, one way that school districts have found a way to avoid the ban on mask orders is to include the wearing of masks in their student dress codes. The Paris, Tx ISD was the first to implement this policy. Paris is in northeast Texas, about 100 miles northeast of Dallas, with a student population of about 4,000.
The House convenes at 4PM today, and it remains to be seen if they will have the 100 (now 99) members necessary to establish a quorum. The Senate convened at 11AM this morning and immediately adjourned until 2PM on Monday