Case Counts – Monday, January 10th (3:30 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 4,218,391 (41,698 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 10,417 (8,352 available beds, 352 available adult ICU beds)
Fatalities – 75,287 (6 new deaths)
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Sunday, January 9th was 36.48%. One month ago, there were 6,500 new cases reported, one week ago there were 51,500 new cases reported, compared to the 41,698 reported yesterday. The 10,417 COVID patients in hospitals now is 3,402 MORE patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 17.5% of total hospital beds in the state.
As of Sunday, January 9th , 19.6 million Texans, or 67.2% of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 16.6 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, which is 57% of the state. So far, 5.2 million, or 17% of the state have gotten a booster shot. Including booster shots, a total of 40.1 million doses of the vaccine have been administered.
Even though the rate of hospitalizations increased slowly at the beginning of the Omicron surge, hospitalizations have increased dramatically over the last few days. The number of patients hospitalized with COVID has increased by 50% over the last seven days. The highest number of patients hospitalized with COVID during the pandemic was reached on January 11, 2021 with 14,218 patients. During our summer peak, we reached 13,932 on August 26th. Now, with over 10,000 patients in Texas hospitals, many health experts believe by the end of this month, we could break that record. The vast majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated.
North Texas is reporting more COVID infections now than at any other time during the pandemic. Dallas County along reported 6,589 new cases, which is the highest number on record for a single day. Tarrant County reported over 4,000 cases on Friday as well. This rapid spread has led to staff shortages at area hospitals. To help with the significant staff shortages in hospitals, the state is sending 1,000 traveling nurses to facilities in the north Texas region of the state to assist with the overflow patients. Most of the nurses are from out of state.
The University of Texas COVID-19 modeling consortium released a new report on Friday that tries to project what to expect next with COVID and when cases may peak. In looking at several different scenarios, the consortium reports that Omicron is 63% less severe than Delta but obviously has a better chance to evade immunity. Therefore, we are seeing more cases that are overall less severe. Nationally, the report predicts that, like many other health experts, that new daily infections and hospitalizations could begin to decrease as early as mid-January. However, in looking at the state of Texas specifically, the report suggests that due to the large and diverse population of the state, coupled with the varying degrees of safety protocols in different parts of the state, we may lag behind the rest of the country in terms of significantly flattening the curve. For these reasons, the report suggests that Texas may not see a visible decline in infections and hospitalizations until early February. To draw your own conclusions, a copy of the report can be found here: https://covid-19.tacc.utexas.edu/media/filer_public/dc/16/dc1685ad-4f56-4d63-a330-1d254dff54a0/omicron_projections_2_-_01062022_-_ut.pdf?mc_cid=63a993fa3b&mc_eid=aafe046541
Abbott Kicks Off Reelection
On Saturday in McAllen, Gov. Abbott announced his reelection in front of a fairly sparse crowd of about 200 people. Abbott chose McAllen to start his announcement tour because the Republican party is making a hard push to turn the reliably Democratic Rio Grande Valley into a battleground area for the Republicans. Abbott is planning to make 60 stops on his campaign tour between now and March 1st. On Monday, he also started a statewide media buy of broadcast and cable TV, along with radio spots to air throughout the state. The Abbott campaign has already made a buy of $1.3 million on ads to air through the end of January. His primary opponent, Don Huffines, has made a $560,000 buy on TV ads that have been running since late December. Abbott is seeking a third term as Governor, and in his opening remarks vowed to revisit the Valley numerous times throughout the campaign. Abbott won 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2014 and 42% in 2018 general elections.
Abortion Case to Linger Much Longer
In the continued battle over the state’s new abortion law, a federal appeals court on Friday indicated that it would send the controversial new law to the Texas Supreme Court for review, a move that will likely add many more months of hearings before the case is ultimately resolved. The new law took effect on September 1st, and it bans abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, and empowers private citizens to enforce the law through lawsuits. Last month, the US Supreme Court threw out most challenges to the lawsuit but did send some issues regarding the new law to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. That panel on Friday declared that the state Supreme Court must answer questions regarding specific state law before the federal courts can resume their reviews.
Harris County Mask Mandate Upheld
In the latest round of court battles regarding mask mandates, the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals upheld the mask mandate put in place by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. In the opinion, the Justices argued that Abbott had exceeded his authority by prohibiting local governments from mandating face coverings in his executive order issued last May. Further, the court ruled that the Governor, in times of disaster, does not have the authority to preempt local orders issued by governmental entities that conflict with his executive orders. The order mandates the wearing of face coverings in county buildings or on county property, and allows businesses and schools to require the wearing of masks in the county. This ruling will assuredly be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
Harvey Aid Delayed
Last week, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development informed the state that is was withholding $1.95 billion in federal aid for intended for continued recovery from Hurricane Harvey because the state did not send the required paperwork detailing how the state plans to spend the money regarding the proposed disaster mitigation projects. This is the latest delay in a series of hold ups on the money that Congress has approved. In 2017, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Congress appropriated $4.3 billion to the state of Texas. Roughly half of the money has still not reached the state. The General Land Office, headed by George P. Bush, now has 45 days to submit the missing documents. Until then, the state cannot award or distribute flood mitigation grants to local authorities.
State Rep. James White gained the endorsements of several of his legislative colleagues. Senator Charles Perry, a Republican from Lubbock, was the first to formally endorse White. This is significant because Perry chairs the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. Joining Perry are Senator Drew Springer and 16 of White’s House colleagues.
In the redistricting process, El Paso County lost one of their legislative seats due to shifts in population. That meant that two members had to be “paired”, or run against each other. Rep. Art Fierro’s district remained somewhat intact, so that caused Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez to move into Fierro’s district to challenge him for the seat. She was initially paired with Rep. Lina Ortega, but Perez thought the challenge to Fierro was the more prudent avenue for her to pursue. Fierro has challenged her residency in the new district, citing a portion of the Election Code that says residency must be established six months prior to the filing deadline for the seat. On Friday, a state appellate court rejected Fierro’s challenge and said that Perez was eligible for the new seat. Perez established residency in the new district in October, two months before she filed for the seat. The State Constitution requires that a person running for a legislative seat be a resident of the district for 12 months prior to the election day, and the court ruled that Perez will be a resident of the district for 12 months on election day of 2022.
Political commercials will be on your local stations in full force between now and the March 1st election day. Early voting starts February 14th.