Austin, Texas, puts a price on carbon - Citizens' Climate Lobby

Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Sunday, February 21st  (2:35 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 22,464,563

Confirmed Cases – 2,245,634 (3,617 new cases)

Active Cases – 210,073

Hospitalizations – 7,146 (11,372 available beds, 743 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 41,343 (130 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 2,318,193


Vaccine Data – Sunday, February 21st (1:17 PM data)

Doses Shipped by state – 5,285,525

People with one dose received – 3,107,515

People fully vaccinated – 1,344,003

Total doses administered – 4,451,518


Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Saturday, February 20th was 11.73%.  One month ago, there were 17,900 new cases reported, one week ago there were 5,700 new cases reported, compared to the 3,617 reported yesterday.   The 7,146 COVID patients in hospitals now are 961 fewer than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 10.8% of total hospital beds in the state.

Over the last week, an average of 17,733 doses have been administered each day in the state.   As of February 21st , 4.6% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.

NOTE:  Due to the winter storm and power outages, the reporting of COVID and vaccination data are significantly delayed from last week.


Aftermath of Winter Storm

Texans endured power outages, scarcity of water, and a lack of information from state leaders last week as the winter blast kept many areas of the state below freezing for several days in a row.  Here in Austin, the temperature stayed below freezing for 8 straight days, beginning on Friday, February 12th and lasting until the following Friday.  Areas in central Texas received up to 8 inches of snow, and temperatures reached single digits two consecutive nights.  This past Friday afternoon, the temperature finally reached the upper 30’s as the thaw slowly began.

A couple walked through their apartment complex in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday in search of running water. Their electricity had been restored.

This past week, the legislature canceled all session activities.  The budget related committees, which were the only committees on the schedule last week, canceled all hearings as members and staff were discouraged from traveling to Austin due to hazardous weather conditions.

As many as 4 million Texans throughout the state lost power, many for several days in a row.  With no access to internet or phone service, the state had no way to provide essential information to people on a timely and consistent basis, and had no contingency plans in place to help the suffering people without basic essential services.


Records Broken During Storm

Here are some interesting statistics from the record setting storm last week.  Tuesday was the coldest day in North Texas in 72 years and its second-coldest on record, with the Dallas-Fort Worth area reaching a record low temperature of  -2 °. South Texas also saw record lows with Houston reaching 13 °F, the city’s coldest temperature since 1989. San Antonio had a low of 12 °F, the city’s coldest temperature since 1989. Austin reached 7 °F, the city’s coldest temperature since 1989. Tyler reached an all-time low of -6 °F.

Temperatures as cold as -20 °F were recorded as far south as the Texas Panhandle. Abilene and San Angelo set all-time snow records. Abilene had 14.8” of snow and San Angelo 10.1”. Austin, Texas had its largest two-day snowfall (6.4”) in over 70 years (since 1949) on Feb 14-15.  In addition to record-breaking temperatures, demand for electricity in Texas hit a record 69,150 megawatts (MW) on February 14—3,200 MW higher than the previous record set in January 2018.


Storm Caused Delays in Vaccine Deliveries, Will Increase This Week

The winter storm also posed new obstacles to coronavirus vaccination efforts.  Hazardous weather slowed deliveries from two central distribution hubs for the Southeast.  But, with the weather having improved, Texas is on course to receive 600,000 doses this week.  The vaccines will be shipped to 563 providers in 230 counties across the state.  An additional 360,000 doses have been ordered by the state to be used as second doses, mainly for those who had their appointments delayed due to the storm.

Photo of two people shoveling snow next to a line of cars


Plenty of Blame to Go Around

Early in the process, instead of trying to get power and basic services restored, the finger pointing began.  Many blamed the state leadership for not being better prepared for this kind of disaster; others blamed the state’s oversight entity, ERCOT, that controls the electric grid in most areas of the state; and even others pointed to the age old argument of fossil fuels vs. renewable energy as the reason for the overwhelming loss of power.  But the bottom line is there is plenty of blame to go around.

On Friday, as the situation continued, but also began to improve, Gov. Abbott declared that the failure of the electric grid is ultimately his responsibility.  Of all the emergency and disaster situations Abbott has faced – Hurricane Harvey, mass shootings, pandemic recovery – this winter storm and the failures of the state to adequately protect its citizens from the freezing temperatures and provide basic services in the aftermath may be the greatest challenge of Abbott’s political career.  During a Friday afternoon press availability, Abbott said he is taking responsibility for the situation with ERCOT, and the fact that the state of Texas was wholly unprepared for the large scale failure of power generation during the storm.


Legislature to Hold Hearings

Lawmakers announced late last week that they will hold hearings to try and determine exactly what went wrong with ERCOT and the failures in the power delivery system.  The Senate Business and Commerce committee, which has jurisdiction over electric and power regulatory issues, will have a hearing focusing on ERCOT, how this happened, and how they plan to do their job in the future to keep the grid up and running.  The House will conduct a joint hearing between the State Affairs Committee and the Energy Resources committee to hear from all stakeholders involved regarding the factors that contributed to the failure and what steps need to be taken to safeguard the state’s electric grid.

The Texas Capitol Building, Feb. 10, 2015. Credit: Todd Wiseman / The Texas Tribune

Both hearings will be held on Thursday at the state Capitol.

Also from the Legislature, Gov. Abbott summoned lawmakers to his office Saturday for an emergency meeting to discuss the possibility of rising energy costs due to the storm.  In response, the Public Utility Commission met over the weekend and issued two orders.  One directs energy providers to temporarily stop disconnecting customers from power or water due to unpaid bills, and the other  stops companies from sending invoices or bill estimates to customers until all issues of regarding the financial situation of the bills sent to customers are resolved.


Finally, Some Good News

State officials declared this morning that power should now be fully restored across the state, and power conservation measures are no longer necessary.  As of Sunday evening, about 13,000 customers in the state did not have power restored.  Food supply shortages at grocery stores will also soon be resolved.  The state has temporarily suspended relevant regulations to allow more delivery trucks on the roads to help deliver food and supplies at a faster rate.


There are 98 days remaining in the regular session.  The House is adjourned until 2:00PM on Tuesday, February 23rd, and the Senate is adjourned until 4:00PM on Tuesday, February 23rd.