Case Counts – Tuesday, February 22nd (2:15 PM data)

Confirmed Cases – 5,415,212 (4,084 new cases)

Hospitalizations – 4,970 (8,372 available beds, 600 available adult ICU beds)

Fatalities – 82,627 (192 new deaths)


Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Monday, February 21st  was 7.4% (down slightly).  One month ago, there were 49,200 new cases reported, one week ago there were 8,000 new cases reported, compared to the 4,084 reported yesterday.  The 4,970 COVID patients in hospitals now is 2,372 FEWER patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 8.4% of total hospital beds in the state.

As of Monday, February 21st , 20.3 million Texans, or 69.6% of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine.  17.2 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, which is 58.9% of the state.  So far, 6.2 million, or 21.3% of the state have gotten a booster shot.  Including booster shots, a total of 42.3 million doses of the vaccine have been administered.


Early Voting Numbers

As of yesterday, a total of 462,131 people had voted either by mail or in person in the Republican primary, which translates to 2.69% of the total registered voters.  On the Democratic side, 291,951 had voted, which is 1.7% of registered voters in the state.  In total, 754,082 people have already voted early in person or by mail.


Latest Poll Numbers

The latest Dallas Morning News/UT Tyler poll was released over the weekend, with some of the statewide races coming more into focus.  Most statewide incumbents such as Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick appear to be headed to primary victories without a runoff.  Incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton does appear to be headed to a runoff, as he is not polling above the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.  In the latest poll, Paxton leads the field of four Republicans with 39% of the respondents compared to 25% for Land Commissioner George P. Bush.  Eva Guzman is polling at 13% and Louie Gohmert comes in at 7%.  Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is also polling below needed runoff numbers at 32% compared to 14% for his nearest rival, state Rep. James White.  A whopping 47% say they are still undecided in that race.  Even though the general election day is still eight months away, respondents were asked their preference in a head to head match between Gov. Abbott and Beto O’Rourke.  Abbott continues to lead, being favored by 45% to O’Rourke’s 37%  The entire poll can be found here:


Travis County Indicts 19 Police Officers

A Travis County grand jury has indicted 19 police officers related to allegations of excessive force during the protests related to the death of George Floyd in May of 2020.  The indictments are the largest number of police officers indicted so far of any US city in connection with the protests.  Most of the indictments allege the officers fired bean bags or rubber bullets into the crowds that caused bodily injury.  Most of the 19 officers have surrendered to authorities in Austin, and face at least one felony count of assault by a public servant, that carries a possible prison term of five years.  One of the indicted officers is Justin Berry, a Republican candidate for a state House of Representatives seat in suburban Austin.


Suing to End Mask Mandates on Planes

AG Ken Paxton and US Rep. Beth Van Duyne are suing the Biden administration to end the mask mandate on planes.  First issued in January of 2021, the federal mandate requires passengers to wear masks when using any public transportation services such as planes, trains, buses, or subways.  The lawsuit is the latest involving the state of Texas in ongoing challenges to the federal mandates put in place regarding the pandemic.  In the lawsuit, the state alleges that the mandate is a restriction of the traveler’s liberties.  Congresswoman Van Duyne, a Republican from Irving, is involved in the suit because her Congressional district contains the DFW Airport.  The mandate is set to expire on March 18th.


Patrick Proposes an End to Tenure for University Professors

At a news conference last Friday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he will push to end tenure for all new hires at the state’s publicly funded institutions of higher education.  Patrick says he will no longer allow faculty at universities to “indoctrinate” students with teachings about critical race theory.  Tenure for university professors carries unlimited job security that can only be terminated under extreme circumstances.  It is intended to allow faculty to have the academic freedom to teach and espouse their views without threat of firing from administration officials that do not share their views.

During the regular session last year, the legislature passed a law that forbids public schools from teaching students about critical race theory.  Critical race theory is an approach in teaching that suggest racism is a pattern in our country that affects all aspects of our lives from law enforcement to employment practices to the attitudes of financial markets and institutions.

University of Texas President Jay Hartzell was quick to respond to Patrick’s proposal, saying that the elimination of tenured positions would hamper the ability of all public universities in the state to hire and retain the best faculty.


Political Notes

State Rep. Garnet Coleman has announced he will resign his seat, effective February 28th due to health reasons. Coleman, who is not seeking reelection in 2022, becomes the second House member in as many months to resign before the end of his term.  Valley Rep. Eddie Lucio, III resigned on January 31st.  Coleman is a thirty-plus year veteran of the House, representing areas of east and south Houston since 1991. He was considered an expert on health care related issues, and served several times on the conference committee on the state budget.  Last year, he missed most of the regular session due to illness that eventually led to the amputation of his lower right leg.  A special election will be called to fill the remaining 10 months in his current term.

Rocker and gun rights activist Ted Nugent has endorsed Allen West in the Republican primary for Governor.  West, the former state Republican Party Chairman, is one of seven challengers to Gov. Abbott in Tuesday’s primary election.  West has not raised a lot of money, and consistently polls in single digits.  In the endorsement, Nugent calls Abbott a “pretty good Governor, but now just doesn’t cut it”.  He says West will be a “warrior that stands up to freedom and will not compromise”.

Several “whistleblowers” who are involved in a lawsuit with Attorney General Ken Paxton say the incumbent AG is lying about them on the campaign trail.  Four of the deputy attorneys general sued Paxton last year after he fired them for bringing forth complaints that Paxton was accepting bribes and abusing the power of his office.  The accusations were first made public in November of 2020 when eight staffers accused Paxton of accepting bribes and abusing his power in the favor of a particular political donor, a real estate investor in Austin.  Paxton subsequently fired all of the accusers, and four of them have in turn sued him for wrongful termination. Paxton has denied all of the allegations, and this latest development is the most recent in the amazing amount of turmoil and legal trouble faced by the incumbent Attorney General.

Former Austin state Senator Kirk Watson announced today that he is once again running for mayor of Austin.  Watson served as mayor of Austin from 1997 to 2001, leaving that post to run for Attorney General in 2002.  After that unsuccessful attempt, Watson was elected to the state Senate in 2006, where he served until 2020.  Watson left the Senate in 2020 to assume a position as Dean of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston.  Watson left that position last year.  Current Mayor Steve Adler is forbidden to seek reelection due to term limits. Watson joins state Rep. Celia Israel and city councilwoman Kathie Tovo in the field to replace Adler.  The election for mayor of Austin will take place in November of this year.


What’s Next??

More polls will be released and more political commercials will be on your local stations between now and the March 1st election day.  Early voting is underway and lasts until this Friday, February 25th.