Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Thursday, August 26th (3:55PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,962,616 (13,633 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 13,932 (7,263 available beds, 356 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 54,691 (236 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Thursday, August 26th (12:45 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 22,609,030
People vaccinated – 16,269,901
People fully vaccinated – 13,519,513
Total doses administered – 28,642,171
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Wednesday, August 25th was 16.03%. One month ago, there were 6,600 new cases reported, one week ago there were 20,100 new cases reported, compared to the 13,633 reported yesterday. The 13,932 COVID patients in hospitals now is 1,526 more patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 21.7% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 80,031 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Wednesday, August 25th , 46.4% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
House Sets First Floor Schedule
Due to the lack of a quorum for the first special session and the first part of the second special session, the House was unable to proceed with any legislative matters. With the return of the quorum, the House has finally set its first floor schedules for today and tomorrow. Today, the House is debating the contentious election bill, and tomorrow they will consider two supplemental appropriations bills, the bail reform bill, and the bill that funds virtual learning in public schools. If all bills pass, as expected, the Senate would then have the option of either concurring in the House version of the bills or sending the bills to conference committees for consideration. After resolution of these pieces of legislation, both chambers will still have to consider the restoration of funding for the legislative branch, which was vetoed by Gov. Abbott at the conclusion of the regular session.
Redistricting on the Horizon
With the delivery of the demographic breakdown of the state’s population, after the special sessions on unfinished legislative business finally end, the legislature will turn its focus to the task of drawing new districts for the state House, Senate and Congressional seats. With the state’s growth almost exclusively in the suburban areas of Austin, Houston, and the DFW Metroplex, rural areas of the state will lose seats relative to their delegation numbers now. In preparation for the next special session, the House and Senate Redistricting Committees have posted public hearings for the week of September 7th, where they will allow public input both in person, and with a virtual option. No date for the convening of the special session on redistricting has been set, but Capitol insiders believe it will start no later than September 15th. For a full list of the hearings, go to https://capitol.texas.gov
Abbott Bans Vaccine Mandates
Gov. Abbott on Wednesday announced an executive order banning government COVID vaccine mandates in Texas regardless of a vaccine’s approval status with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He also said he was adding the issue to the agenda for the current special session of the Texas Legislature. The order comes two days after the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. The order is simple, and states that no governmental entity can mandate any individual to receive the COVID vaccine. This includes cities, counties, school districts, and any other public governmental entities. The order goes on to declare that an private entity that receives state funding cannot require a consumer or customer to provide proof of vaccination. This all comes as Abbott’s challenge to mask mandates already imposed by cities, counties and school districts is making its way through various levels of the court system, with varying degrees of success. Some courts have upheld Abbott’s ban, and others have overruled it.
Vaccinations Up in Harris County
Harris County officials began an incentive program last week in an attempt to increase vaccinations in Houston and the surrounding areas. The county started handing out $100 gift cards last Tuesday to local residents who were receiving their first vaccine shot. Since that program started, the number of daily vaccinations has increased to six times its previous rate. For the three weeks prior to the start of the program, Harris County Public Health was administering an average of 431 shots per day. The day after the program was announced, the number went up to 914, and then to 1,596 on the second day. By Saturday, roughly 2,700 people were receiving shots. Harris County still only has about 48% of its residents fully vaccinated. That compares with the state’s second most populous county. Dallas County has about 46% of its residents vaccinated.
Travis County has roughly 59% of its residents fully vaccinated, leaving about 250,000 eligible residents still unvaccinated. Webb County (Laredo) leads the state with 65% of its residents vaccinated. The state average remains at about 46% of eligible residents vaccinated.
Entire Town Shuts Down Due to COVID
Several school districts across the state have either closed certain campuses, or postponed the first day of school due to the rise in COVID cases. But there is one town in west Texas that has essentially shut down due to the number of COVID infections. Iraan (pronounced Ira Ann) is a small town off of I-10 in far west Texas with a population of about 1,200 people. The school districts and most local businesses have completely shut down. According to their local hospital, in a two week span in early August, 119 people were tested for COVID, and 50 tested positive. That is a 42% positivity rate, compared to the statewide rate of roughly 16%. The local school district says that 16% of its students have tested positive, and the school was forced to shut down after only 5 days of classes. The schools are shuttered until August 30th, with no virtual classes.
The House convened at 10 AM today, and they are currently debating SB 1, the elections bill. There are 70 amendments that have been filed for consideration, so it could be a long night on the floor. They also have a full calendar tomorrow. The Senate convened at 2PM today, and will adjourn at some point until Sunday or Monday, where they will receive the bills passed by the House, and make a decision to either concur in what the House sent over, or send the bills to conference committee.