Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Thursday, August 5th (1:40 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,697,312 (10,912 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 8,130 (8,075 available beds, 471 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 52,297 (76 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Thursday, August 5th (12:30 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 21,642,660
People vaccinated – 15,115,783
People fully vaccinated – 12,797,910
Total doses administered – 26,827,175
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Wednesday, August 4th was 18.07%. One month ago, there were 1,300 new cases reported, one week ago there were 13,000 new cases reported, compared to the 10,912 reported yesterday. The 8,130 COVID patients in hospitals now is 2,393 more patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 11.9% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 73,036 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Tuesday, August 3rd, 44.1% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
2nd Special Session Starts Tomorrow
Gov. Abbott announced yesterday that the second called session of the legislature will begin at noon on Saturday. The agenda for the special session has 17 items in the call. In addition to the same items from the last special session – election reform, critical race theory, transgender student athletes, legislative funding, etc… — there are new items to be considered this session. This session Abbott is calling on the legislature to consider how to spend COVID relief funds that have been sent by the federal government as well as changes to the legislative rules regarding quorums for each chamber. Also, an item that should receive a great deal of attention relates to public education and how to prepare the return to school with the virus surging again.
The first session will end today with nothing being accomplished due to the fact that there was not the necessary number of members to constitute a quorum and conduct business. Over 50 Democratic House members fled to Washington, DC in protest to a contentious bill related to changing election laws in the state.
Democrats Considering Next Move
With the start date of the session announced, the Democrats in DC protesting the proposed elections bill say they are still considering what to do next. As recently as last night, the caucus chair said they have not decided their immediate next move. At least one member – Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D, San Antonio) – has declared via twitter that he has no plans to return to Austin for the special session. The stand by the House Democrats against voter suppression was overshadowed this week when news broke that two of their caucus members – Rep. Julie Johnson of Farmers Branch and Rep. Jessica Gonzalez of Dallas were on vacation in Portugal, instead of in DC with their Democratic colleagues. A Texas Monthly reporter first broke the news earlier this week. The two House members in question have not responded to questions from the press. This news brought a slew of condemnation from Republican colleagues.
Hospitals in Crisis
The over 8,000 COVID patients in hospitals is the highest number seen since January. Hospitals in the state are at historically low staffing levels, with over 23,000 unfilled jobs available for registered nurses. As of Thursday, in the 25 county Houston area hospital region, 543 patients were waiting for a hospital bed and another 62 were waiting to be admitted to the ICU. In Austin, only 10 ICU beds are available in the entire 11 county region that serves 2.3 million people. Health care officials warn that the crisis will worsen throughout the month of August.
Local Mandates Defy State
Gov. Abbott has steadfastly refused to again issues statewide lockdown or mask mandates similar to the ones he issued last year. With the growing number of cases and hospitalizations, local officials are now considering and even issuing local mandates. On Monday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the city’s 22,000 employees will be required to wear face coverings while on city property. Courts in Williamson County, north of Austin, have issued an order that face coverings are required to enter any judicial facility in the county. And, the Houston ISD Superintendent said he plans to bring before the board next week a proposed mask mandate for students and teachers. The Austin/Travis County region has declared themselves to be in Stage 5, which is the highest risk stage. They have issued recommendations for new protocols that include staying home except for essential trips for the unvaccinated, avoiding indoor gatherings, and are asking businesses to reinstate mask policies.
With the issuance of Abbott’s most recent executive order that prohibits local mandates, local officials say they have no choice but to issues these directives and recommendations due to the increasing number of infections and hospitalizations. However, they are largely unenforceable, and carry no weight of law. They will likely lead to lawsuits where the courts will make the ultimate decision regarding how or if local cities and counties can issue mandates.
One area of the state where Gov. Abbott has shown interest in stopping the spread of COVID is along the border. On Monday, Abbott issued an order allowing state law enforcement to stop any vehicle they suspected of transporting migrants who may pose a risk of spreading COVID. The next day, a US District Judge blocked the order until the validity of the order was heard in court. The US Justice Department has sued the state of Texas to block the order completely. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for August 13th.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is preparing to offer COVID vaccinations to migrants in US custody along the Mexico border. The migrants, who are coming over in numbers not seen in two decades, will be offered the single shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The vaccine will be provided to those both awaiting deportation as well as those that are likely to be released into the United States. In July, 210,000 migrants crossed into the United States along the southern border, with a vast majority of those entering through the Texas border. This is the highest one month total in 21 years.
Both sessions of the Texas Legislature will adjourn the first session this afternoon. Then, they will convene at noon tomorrow to begin the Second Called Session. The Lt. Governor has already declared that the Senate will immediately begin committee hearings on legislation related to items in the call. On the House side, everyone will wait to see if there will be the 100 members necessary to establish a quorum so the House can conduct business.