Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Wednesday, December 2nd  (4:45 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 12,190,111

Confirmed Cases – 1,200,674 (14,758 new cases)

Active Cases – 188,917

Hospitalizations – 9,109 (11,719 available beds, 722 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 21,756 (207 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 993,151

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Monday, December 1st  was 14.35%.  One month ago, there were 7,997 new cases reported, one week ago there were 12,423 new cases reported, compared to the 14,758 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has decreased by 2,158 cases.  The 9,109 COVID patients in hospitals now are 524 more than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 13.8% of total hospital beds in the state.

White House Report Calls on Texas To Bolster Efforts

On Tuesday, the state of Texas again reported a record number of new infections with 15,182.  The state has now passed the 1.2 million mark for coronavirus cases.  Harris County continues to lead in the number of infections, with more than 3,000 new cases reported this week.  Amid the increases, the White House Coronavirus Task Force released a report earlier this week that called on state officials to intensify their efforts to combat the spread of the virus.  Recommendations from the report include reducing occupancy limits for indoor spaces such as retail outlets and restaurants; along with more testing of public school teachers, college students, and hospital staff.  The report cites an “unsustainable increase in hospitalizations” because of the full resurgence of COVID infections.

In addition to the continued surge in the El Paso region, the Big Bend area of Texas is now leading the state in cases per 1,000 residents.  The very popular far west Texas destinations such as Marfa and the Big Bend National Park have seen a huge increase in visitors over the last few weeks.  People have chosen this region because of its remote location and sparsely populated areas.  But, the visitors to the region seem to have brought the virus along, and the area’s residents are seeing surging cases and very limited available hospital beds.

Through a spokesperson in response to the White House report, the Governor’s office was non-committal about addressing or adopting any of the recommendations.  Abbott has consistently said that lockdowns do not work, and that any economic shutdown is not a possibility.  The Governor’s office simply said they will monitor the data and consult with medical professionals and local officials to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Texas to Receive 1.4 Million Doses by Mid-December

Assuming the schedule for approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines stays on track, Texas will receive 1.4 million doses by the week of December 14th.  Since each vaccine requires two doses, there will initially be enough to vaccinate 700,000 Texans.  State health officials have said they are ready, and the plans are in place for wide distribution of the vaccines, once they arrive.  The first shipments of the vaccines will go mostly to hospitals, so the front line health care workers and other hospital personnel can be vaccinated.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler Encourages Residents to Stay Home – While on Vacation

Last month, as the surge in coronavirus infections were climbing daily, Austin Mayor Steve Adler was strongly encouraging Austin residents to stay home, and only leave their homes for essential activities such as shopping for food or receiving necessary medical care.  Mayor Adler holds a nightly video chat called “Got a Minute” that he uses as a platform to encourage residents to take precautions and is consistently saying that even with the virus fatigue, this is no time to relax, but to continue to take precautions.  But, during this time period while Mayor Adler was urging residents to stay home and not travel, the Mayor was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  He even filmed one of his nightly segments from his condo in Cabo, asking everyone else to stay home —  while he was on vacation.  Adler has said this was a “lapse in judgement”, and said he now regrets taking the vacation.

Economy Holding Steady

According to the latest report from the Federal Reserve of Dallas, even with the surge over the last month, the Texas economy is holding steady, with most economic activity numbers remaining fairly flat as compared to the previous month.  While retail sales fell slightly in the month of November, the service sector saw little change.  The service sector includes hospitality, professional, and technical services.  According to the Fed report, while business activity did not contract overall, most of the firms surveyed have begun to have a much less optimistic view of the economy moving forward.  Even with the approval of a vaccine imminent, businesses see more restrictions on the horizon prior to full implementation of the vaccine due to the recent surge in infections.

Abbott Makes Endorsement in Senate Special Election

Voters in the north Texas Senate District 30, stretching from south and east of Denton over into rural areas west of Wichita Falls, go to the polls on December 19th to choose a replacement for incumbent Pat Fallon, who is vacating the seat after being elected to Congress.  The original contest was on September 29th, where the final two candidates finished within 115 votes, thus mandating a runoff since neither surpassed the 50% threshold.  The final two are state Rep. Drew Springer from Muenster and Dallas salon owner Shelly Luther, both Republicans.  Luther rose to fame earlier this year when she defied orders from Governor Abbott and refused to close her salon, even serving a short jail sentence.  

Yesterday, Gov. Abbott endorsed Rep. Springer, an unconventional move when both candidates are from the same party, but something Abbott has done in other contested races.  The primary focus of the race has been the state’s response to the pandemic, and Luther has been overtly critical of Abbott, going so far as to publicly call him a tyrant.  

Early voting begins December 9th, and the election is December 19th.

Traffic Congestion Report

Possibly the only silver lining in the dark cloud of the pandemic – especially for those of us living in urban areas – is that traffic congestion has subsided significantly.  A report issued by the Transportation Institute at Texas A&M listed the most congested roads in the state.  Topping the list is I-35 in downtown Austin.  The area from Highway 290 (just north of UT campus) to Highway 71 (south of downtown) has knocked off West Loop 610 in Houston as the most congested stretch of road in the state.  Also included in the top 5 is central Mopac, also in Austin, the Southwest Freeway in Houston and the Woodall Rodgers Freeway in Dallas.

According to the study, drivers collectively lose 1.6 million hours annually per one mile stretch of road during peak traffic times.  Furthermore, the Texas economy suffers to the tune of $288 million annually due to wasted time sitting in gridlock.  Drive times on these roadways, according to the study, can be as much as 77% longer during rush hour.  

Never thought I would say it, but I would trade the pandemic for a good, long traffic jam right now!!!

The Texas legislative session convenes in 41 days.