Case Counts – Tuesday, February 15th (3:00 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 5,380,619 (8,000 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 7,154 (8,261 available beds, 560 available adult ICU beds)
Fatalities – 81,258 (228 new deaths)
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Monday, February 14th was 12.04% (down slightly). One month ago, there were 55,600 new cases reported, one week ago there were 11,600 new cases reported, compared to the 8,000 reported yesterday. The 7,154 COVID patients in hospitals now is 2,375 FEWER patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 11.7% of total hospital beds in the state.
As of Monday, February 14th, 20.2 million Texans, or 69.3% of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 17.1 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, which is 58.7% of the state. So far, 6.1 million, or 21% of the state have gotten a booster shot. Including booster shots, a total of 42.1 million doses of the vaccine have been administered.
Early Voting Underway
Early voting for all of the primary races is underway throughout the state, running from now until Friday, February 25th. Turnout has been low so far, which is not uncommon in a non-Presidential election year. On the Republican side, 138,232 people have voted in that primary in the first two days of early voting, which translates to .8% of all registered voters. Highest turnout so far has been in the rural counties. In the Democratic primary, 90,757 people have voted, which is .53% of all registered voters. Turnout has been fairly consistent in the Democratic primary between rural and urban counties. Even in the state’s largest counties, turnout rate remains well under 1%. Many experts predict the overall turnout for the both party’s primary elections this year could remain below 10%.
Court Stops State Ban on Mail in Ballot Solicitation
Part of the comprehensive rewrite of the state election law last fall was a provision that prohibited local election officials from sending out mail in ballot applications to registered voters that had not requested an application. That provision was challenged by a local election administrator in Houston. A federal district judge in San Antonio earlier this week temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the provision, dealing the state its first legal blow to the new election law. In his ruling, the judge said that the provision was a restriction of free speech, and would have the effect of prohibiting local officials from talking to voters about the importance of voting. Lawyers for the state promised a swift appeal.
The two obvious front runners for the Governor’s race are each ignoring their primary opponents and focusing on each other, even though the primary election is two weeks away. As early voting began, O’Rourke is focused on the failure of the electric grid as the state marks the first anniversary of last year’s winter storm. O’Rourke, through a new digital ad campaign, is criticizing Abbott for his handling of the electric grid, and claiming that the state ratepayers are paying higher electric bills as part of the fallout from last year’s storm. The ads come as Abbott touts a much improved electric delivery system thanks to a series of bills passed by the legislature last year and the fact that the grid held up much better in this year’s recent cold blast.
On the campaign trail, Abbott is going after O’Rourke saying that he and the Democrats will bring a big government, socialist philosophy that will destroy the state. The remarks came at Abbott’s most recent campaign stop in Duncanville, where Abbott went on to criticize O’Rourke for his support of open borders policies and his support of rolling back 2nd amendment gun rights.
In the most recent poll done by the University of Texas Politics Project, Abbott held a 10 point lead – 47% to 37% — over O’Rourke among likely voters in November.
A special election for state House District 38 has been set for May 7th. This is necessary to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Eddie Lucio, III who resigned on January 31st. Lucio, who had served seven terms in the state House, had already declared he would not seek reelection in 2022. His resignation leaves a vacancy, and the winner of the May 7th election will serve for the remainder of the calendar year.
Controversial New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez spent the weekend in San Antonio and Austin, on the stump for two progressive Congressional candidates – Jessica Cisneros who is challenging Congressman Henry Cuellar of Laredo, and Greg Casar, the former Austin city councilman running for an open seat that runs from east Austin to downtown San Antonio. At the rallies, AOC made headlines by predicting that Texas is well on its way to becoming a Democratic state. So far, recent election results have not confirmed those claims.
One north Texas House race is receiving more than its fair share of attention due to the fact that one of the candidates is Shelly Luther, the hair salon owner that was briefly jailed last year for defying Governor Abbott’s shutdown orders at the beginning of the pandemic. Luther ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate last year, and is now trying to unseat three term incumbent Reggie Smith of Sherman in the Republican primary. This week, Smith received two high profile endorsements. First, state Senator Bryan Hughes, who chairs the powerful State Affairs committee, endorsed Smith. Hughes’ endorsement carries weight in the Republican primary due to his authorship of high profile legislation including the heartbeat bill and the rewrite of the election laws in the state. Yesterday, Gov. Abbott endorsed Smith, adding to his high profile list of endorsements.
More polls will be released and more political commercials will be on your local stations between now and the March 1st election day. The last day to apply to vote by mail is February 18th. Early voting is underway and lasts until February 25th.