Case Counts – Wednesday, January 19th (3:15 PM data)

Confirmed Cases – 4,749,127 (47,966 new cases)

Hospitalizations – 12,905 (7,469 available beds, 306 available adult ICU beds)

Fatalities – 76,277 (154 new deaths)


Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Tuesday, January 18th  was 33.7% (down slightly).  One month ago, there were 9,000 new cases reported, one week ago there were 59,300 new cases reported, compared to the 47,966 reported yesterday.  The 12,905 COVID patients in hospitals now is 1,344 MORE patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 20.8% of total hospital beds in the state.

As of Tuesday, January 18th, 19.8 million Texans, or 68% of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine.  16.7 million people in the state are fully vaccinated, which is 57.5% of the state.  So far, 5.6 million, or 19.1% of the state have gotten a booster shot.  Including booster shots, a total of 40.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered.


New Laws Take Effect In January

Several of the new laws that were passed during the regular session and series of special sessions last summer and fall will take effect this month.  Senate Bill 911 took effect January 1st, and this bill protects restaurants from predatory, third party delivery services that have popped up due to the popularity of alcohol to go.  This bill creates specific standards which must be met for third party delivery services to have the ability to contract with restaurants for delivery services to ensure the consumer is getting the product they ordered from the restaurant of their choice.  January 1st also saw a new law in place that requires cities and counties to seek voter approval via an election if the local entity is proposing to cut the budgets of local law enforcement agencies.

From the special sessions, more controversial bills are now in effect.  First, the transgender athlete law, which was one of the most divisive of the summer and fall.  The law now requires students to compete in sports based on their biological sex that is listed on their birth certificate.  Another law enacted from the special session now in effect prohibits the tethering of dogs unattended outdoors unless they are given basic needs such as shelter, food, and water.


Congressman Targeted in FBI Raid

Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Laredo was the target of an FBI raid yesterday.  Agents went to the home and campaign office of the Congressman in Laredo yesterday, and conducted what the agency spokesperson said was “a court authorized law enforcement activity.”  News media captured agents at the Congressman’s home removing cases, files, and other items, along with agents seen filming the entire operation.  The FBI refused to comment further.  Cuellar vowed to cooperate fully with the investigation.  Cuellar was first elected to Congress in 2004, and is a former member of the Texas House and former Texas Secretary of State.  Cuellar is considered a moderate, and assumes a great deal of power among the Texas delegation due to his seat on the House Appropriations Committee.  In the March primary, he is facing progressive Democrat Jessica Cisneros, whom he defeated handily in the 2020 Democratic primary.


Agriculture Commissioner Staff Indicted

Ag Commissioner Sid Miller’s top aide was indicted Tuesday on felony charges of theft and bribery related to soliciting and accepting money in exchange for a license that is authorized by the Department.  In 2019, the legislature authorized the Department of Agriculture to issue licenses to grow hemp, which is a cousin to marijuana, containing the CBD product that is used for medicinal and healing purposes.  The aide, Todd Smith, is accused of soliciting $150,000 and eventually accepting $55,000 in exchange for an assurance of granting the hemp license.  A hemp license at the Department costs $100.  This is not the first time that Smith has been part of a controversy at the Department.  In 2018, he was accused of accepting a $29,000 loan in exchange for an appointment with the staff at the Department.  Furthermore, Commissioner Miller employs Smith’s wife as an assistant commissioner, and is one of the highest paid employees at the Department.

When Smith was initially arrested in May, Miller dismissed the allegations and said that this was all political theater from his opponents, and that Smith had done nothing wrong.  However, Miller has now changed his tune after the indictment was handed down.  Yesterday, Miller fired Smith and said he and the Department would cooperate fully with the investigation.  Miller is seeking his third term as Commissioner of Agriculture, and faces state Rep. James White and economics professor Carey Counsil in the March primary.


Paxton Tests Positive for COVID

The staff of Attorney General Ken Paxton announced yesterday that Paxton has tested positive for COVID.  The statement said only that he had tested positive, and did not say whether or not Paxton is vaccinated.  Also, no information was given on how he may have gotten infected, or when he tested positive.  Paxton has been a fierce opponent of any vaccine mandates issued by the Biden administration, having filed several lawsuits to stop the mandates in Texas.  Some of the suits have been successful, while others have not.  Paxton, who also faces a vast array of legal troubles ranging from a security fraud indictment to agency whistleblower lawsuits, faces three well known opponents in the March primary.


Political Notes

The latest reports on contributions to candidates running for state office are out, and candidates throughout the state have raised a whopping $75 million over the last six months of 2021, and collectively have more than $200 million for their campaigns.

In the Governor’s race, Abbott raised nearly $19 million and has $65 million on hand, while Beto O’Rourke raised $7.2 and has $9 million on hand.

In the closely watched race for Attorney General, former Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman outraised all of the Republican candidates with nearly $3.7 million.  Congressman Louie Gohmert has raised about $1 million and Land Commissioner George P. Bush has raised $1.9 million.  Paxton has not made his report available yet, but reported raising $650,000 during the fall special sessions.


What’s Next??

Political commercials will be on your local stations in full force between now and the March 1st election day.  The last day to register to vote is January 31st.  The last day to apply to vote by mail is February 18th.  Early voting starts February 14th and lasts until February 25th