Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, December 21st  (5:10 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 14,483,812

Confirmed Cases – 1,413,684 (8,107 new cases)

Active Cases – 271,931

Hospitalizations – 10,009 (12,321 available beds, 792 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 24,415 (67 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 1,279,067

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Sunday, December 20th  was 13.92%.  One month ago, there were 12,600 new cases reported, one week ago there were 13,400 new cases reported, compared to the 8,107 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has increased by 1,060 cases.  The 10,009 COVID patients in hospitals now are 705 more than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 15.2% of total hospital beds in the state.  This is also the first time that there have been over 10,000 COVID patients in Texas hospitals since late July.

Next In Line for Vaccines

On Monday, the Department of State Health Services announced the next segments of the population that will be in line for the vaccines.  The vaccine that began arriving last week have been available only to front line health workers and residents of long term care facilities.  There are 1.9 million people in that group, so the next phase will likely not begin for several more weeks.  The state expects to have received 1.4 million doses by the end of the year.  During the next phase, those eligible for the vaccine are Texans who are aged 65 or older and those with certain chronic medical conditions.  Those conditions include, but are not limited to:  cancer, kidney disease, COPD, heart conditions, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, and diabetes.  

To date, more than 42,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the state.

Vaccines Should Help Unemployment Rate

The state’s unemployment rate for November rose to 8.1%, which is an increase over the October rate of 6.9%.  Even though the economy is trying a comeback, the recovery will be slow and staggered.  Distribution of the vaccine could  and should help the rate come down in the coming months, allowing more employers to resume normal business activities.  The recently passed stimulus package in Congress could also help larger companies avoid more layoffs, which will also help the rate.  The pre pandemic unemployment rate in Texas was 3.5% for the month of February, 2020.  If, IF, things continue to move in the right direction, economic experts think the state could see the unemployment rate reduced to the 5% range by the summer.

Capitol to Open January 4th

The state’s three top leaders – Governor, Lt. Governor, and House Speaker – released a joint statement yesterday saying the Capitol will be open to the public beginning January 4th.  The statement was brief, and lacked any real specifics, stating only that safety protocols will be put in place to maintain a safe environment for all visitors, lawmakers and staff.  The House is currently working on a set of rules under which to operate under the pandemic, while the Lt. Governor said yesterday that he will have an announcement next week regarding Senate protocols for the session.

Special Election Results

State Rep. Drew Springer, a Republican from Muenster bested fellow Republican Shelly Luther of Pilot Point in a special election runoff held Saturday for a state Senate seat in north Texas. Incumbent Pat Fallon will vacate the seat due to his election to Congress in November. Luther and Springer had finished as the top two vote getters in the initial election in September, which had 6 candidates. Luther, who gained fame by spending jail time after defying Governor Abbott’s shutdown orders by keeping her hair salon open and operating, could not overcome the financial advantage that Springer had. Springer, having served several terms in the Texas House, had the endorsement of Governor Abbott and was able to use the resources and experience to easily win the election by 12 points. Springer will be sworn in on January 12th.

Prefiling of Bills Continues

After a torrid pace of filing bills right after the November elections, the number of bills being filed by members has slowed significantly. To date, about 850 House bills have been filed and 275 Senate bills have been filed. Most bills are focusing on election integrity, criminal justice and law enforcement reform, health care issues, and directives regarding the state’s response to an emergency. For the upcoming regular session, members can file bills on any topic they choose, and can do so up until the 60th day of the session, which this time is March 12th.  Generally, an average of 7,000 total bills are filed, with an average of 1,300 making it all the way through the process.  Although this year due to the abnormal circumstances, many fewer bills are expected to be filed and eventually passed.

The Texas legislative session begins in 21 days.

This will be the final update of 2020. I will continue to monitor any and all activities regarding the Legislature over the next few days, and am certainly available to each and every one of you if necessary, and will keep you informed of any major developments, should anything occur over the next few days.   

I will be back providing regular updates on January 4th.  I would like to wish all of you a very happy, safe, and prosperous holiday season and New Year.  God Bless everyone, and please stay safe and well during this time.