Case Counts – Wednesday, January 12th (10:40 AM data)

Confirmed Cases – 4,326,299 (61,113 new cases)

Hospitalizations – 11,571 (7,761 available beds, 315 available adult ICU beds)

Fatalities – 75,533 (136 new deaths)


Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Tuesday, January 11th  was 35.6% (down slightly).  One month ago, there were 6,500 new cases reported, one week ago there were 44,400 new cases reported, compared to the 61,113 reported yesterday.  The 11,571 COVID patients in hospitals now is 3,442 MORE patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 18.8% of total hospital beds in the state.

As of Tuesday, January 11th , 19.6 million Texans, or 67.4% of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine.  16.6 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, which is 57.1% of the state.  So far, 5.3 million, or 17% of the state have gotten a booster shot.  Including booster shots, a total of 40.2 million doses of the vaccine have been administered.


COVID/Omicron Updates

The 61,113 new infections set a daily record during the pandemic for new infections.

There are now over 11,000 patients in Texas hospitals for COVID, which is the highest number of patients since September when the Delta variant was surging.  This is roughly 8,000 more patients hospitalized than there were around Christmas, and reaching the high of over 14,000 that was met in January of last year.  Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth reported a record number of patients admitted with COVID yesterday.  69 pediatric patients were admitted in one day.  To make matters worse, the hospital reported nearly 200 staff members out with COVID across their system.

In Houston, three major health care systems – Houston Methodist, Texas Children’s, and Baylor College of Medicine – will require employees to receive booster shots in the coming weeks.  These are the first major health related institutions to elevate vaccination requirements since the beginning of the Omicron surge.  Previous mandates issued by these systems were met with significant pushback from employees with some resigning, and other filing lawsuits. However, the lawsuit filed  by some of the employees was eventually dismissed.

The Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved $42 million to help all local hospitals with staff shortages.  The Court heard testimony in favor of the proposal that detailed not only staff shortage due to infections, but also burnout from the greatly increased workload due to the surge.

In Austin, health experts expect the current surge to last for at least two more weeks.  Austin area hospitals admitted 102 patients on Tuesday, and have 553 COVID patients currently in hospital beds.  That continues a three day streak of a record number of hospital admissions.   That is also approaching  the one day pandemic high of 653 patients reached last August.  Health officials say this trend indicates that the surge will continue for at least two more weeks before the area sees any type of decline in hospitalizations or new infections.

The South by Southwest Festival – staged in Austin every spring – will require all participants and attendees to either be fully vaccinated or show proof of a recent negative test.  The festival, which brings in an estimated 400,000 people to Austin every year, is scheduled for March 11th – 20th, and will be held in person for the first time since 2019.  The 2020 event was canceled and last year’s event was 100% virtual.  The event has an economic impact of over $350 million to the Austin economy.


Economic News

This is not news, we all know prices have gone up dramatically on virtually all goods and services over the last several months.  In the month of December, inflation jumped at its fastest pace since 1982, with a 7% increase from the same time last year.  Prices are up on everything from cars to groceries to furniture as the country has increased its spending, due at least in part to the massive infusion of capital that the federal government initiated to try and spur a recovery from the ongoing pandemic.  According to the federal Department of Labor, food prices are up 5.5% over the last year; used car prices are up more than 37%; new car prices are up 11%; and clothing prices are up 2%.  These are just a few examples of the prices increases we are all experiencing in our everyday lives.  Most economists expect inflation rates to moderate once the omicron surge subsides, and the Federal Reserve is prepared to raise interest rates on short term lending.  The Fed is currently lending money for short term loans – again to try and stimulate a recovery – at near zero interest.

The Texas Oil and Gas Association yesterday reported that the industry had paid the state of Texas roughly $2 billion more in taxes in 2021 than in the previous year.  In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the industry paid the state $13.9 billion in royalties and severance taxes.  That number increased 14%, to $15.8 billion in 2021.  The revenue comes from oil and natural gas production, pipelines, refineries, and liquified natural gas facilities.  Although the state is not as reliant on oil and gas tax revenue for its overall budget health as it once was, these revenues are an important piece of the budget that funds public schools and universities.


Political Notes

Republican gubernatorial candidate released a poll yesterday that showed West leading Abbott among likely Republican primary voters.  The poll, conducted by Paradigm, showed West with a 38% to 33% lead over Abbott among likely Republican primary voters.  Abbott has yet to comment on the poll, but many have questioned the validity of the poll.  Paradigm has ties to the now defunct American Phoenix Foundation, which has caused controversy in Austin and other places through their secret recordings of elected officials engaging in questionable behavior.  They have targeted both Democrats and moderate Republicans with their activities.  With all of that said, the poll still shows  some faction of the Republican electorate that are looking for someone other than Abbott to lead the state.  With a credit to the Texas Tribune, the poll and its credentials can be found here:

Austin state Rep. Celia Israel announced yesterday that she will be running for mayor of Austin.  Israel, in her fourth term representing parts of north and east Austin, announced in November that she would not seek reelection to her House seat to explore the possibility of running for mayor.  Current mayor Steve Adler, due to term limits, is not eligible to seek reelection in November of this year.  Former state Senator and former Austin mayor Kirk Watson, along with two current city council members, have also indicated an interest in running for mayor, though none have made any official announcements as of now.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick named Senator Joan Huffman as the new chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.  The Finance committee not only drafts the biennial state budget, but also has jurisdiction over all state tax laws and procedures.  Huffman is replacing outgoing Senator Jane Nelson, who chose not to seek reelection in 2022.  Huffman is a Republican from West University in the Houston area, and has served on the committee since 2013.  She is a close ally of the Lt. Governor, having pushed through the current redistricting plan for the 2022 elections.

Already feeling the heat and pressure of having three primary opponents, incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton went up on the air this week with his first TV ads for the 2022 primary election.  The ads focus mainly on Paxton’s numerous lawsuits against the Biden administration.  What is interesting however, is that the first round of TV buys were only for the Tyler and Shreveport markets in east Texas.  This is the home base of one of Paxton’s chief rivals in the primary, Congressman Louie Gohmert.  Land Commissioner George P Bush and former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman are also opposing Paxton in the primary.


What’s Next??

Political commercials will be on your local stations in full force between now and the March 1st election day.  Early voting starts February 14th.