Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, January 18th (3:25 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 18,266,776

Confirmed Cases – 1,864,249 (10,110 new cases)

Active Cases – 380,792

Hospitalizations – 13,858 (10,823 available beds, 619 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 32,084 (46 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 1,697,272

Vaccine Data – Monday, January 18th (4:00 PM data)

Doses Shipped by state – 1,725,575

People with one dose received – 1,138,582

People fully vaccinated – 169,081

Total doses administered – 1,307,663

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Sunday,  January 17th was 16.27%.  One month ago, there were 16,900 new cases reported, one week ago there were 22,100 new cases reported, compared to the 10,110 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has increased by 9 cases.  The 13,858 COVID patients in hospitals now are 461 more than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 21% of total hospital beds in the state.

Overall COVID Update

Coronavirus hospitalizations remain at or near record highs in several regions of the state.  Over the last week, the positivity rate has hovered at or near 17%, and the state is on track to record 2 million recorded cases of the virus in the coming days.  Health officials in Laredo have said their ICU units are full, and have sent out an emergency message  to all area residents to please stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to leave.  The areas of Abilene and Bryan/College Station also reported as having no available ICU beds as of Sunday.  Back in Laredo, the area reported nearly 5,000 new cases in one week, and health officials are diverting emergency room patients to stand alone facilities throughout the city.  

The state has finally reached the 1 million mark for people that have received at least one dose of the vaccine.  Front line workers, nursing home residents, and now those aged 65 or over or with chronic medical conditions are currently eligible for the vaccine.   The state health department has indicated that it will be sometime in the spring before all of the people in these categories will be fully inoculated.

State Capitol Will Remain Closed Through Tomorrow

Small groups of protestors gathered outside of several state capitol buildings throughout the nation on Sunday, but most protest groups were far outnumbered by national guard and state police brought in to prevent the violence that recently occurred at our nation’s Capitol.  In Austin on Sunday, a crowd of about 100 gathered peacefully outside the Capitol.  Most of those in attendance were armed, but no incidents were reported.  After receiving credible information about armed protestors at the Capitol, with demonstrations set to begin on Sunday, the Department of Public Safety has closed the state Capitol and the grounds surrounding the building through Wednesday.  The threat of violence and what authorities call a “worst case scenario” prompted the move to close off the complex to the public.  The state Capitol has, and will continue to have a heavily fortified presence all throughout the Capitol grounds, with heavy concentration on each entrance to the building, through Wednesday, when the Presidential inauguration takes place in Washington, DC.  

Legislators and Staff Offered Vaccines

Citing the risk to a city that is already seeing an unprecedented surge in infections and hospitalizations, the Austin Public Health Authority has extended an offer to all members of the Legislature and their staffs to receive the vaccine through the county’s program.  The offer is to try and mitigate the spread of the virus that has been growing in Austin over the last two months, and the concern is that with so many people coming to Austin for the session, the spread could increase even more.  

The news comes as the first confirmed case among an elected member of the Legislature was reported last week.  On Thursday, state Rep. Joe Deshotel (D, Port Arthur) announced he had tested positive for COVID.  Deshotel was on the floor from Tuesday to Thursday last week, as the House began their session activities.  Several members of the House who came in close contact with Deshotel on the floor last week said they will self quarantine for at least 10 days.  

It is not known how many members have or plan to take care advantage of the offer from Travis County.  Several members, including the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, have praised the offer and said they will encourage their colleagues and staff to take the vaccine as soon as possible.  

House and Senate Adopt Rules

Both chambers passed rules under which to operate for the 140 day session last week, knowing that substantial changes had to be considered due to the pandemic.  Members of both the House and Senate will be required to wear masks onto each floor when in session, and when attending committee hearings.  Exceptions are made when speaking in the course of official duties.  However, only the Senate will require testing of each member.  Senate rules will require each member and staff to test negative each day before entering the Senate chamber or committee hearing room.  Any visitor to any Senate office or committee hearing must test negative before being allowed entry.  Virtual testimony was not expanded for Senate committee hearings, except for hearings conducted by the Redistricting committee.  Only in person testimony will be allowed in the Senate, if a negative test has been conducted.

House members will not be required to be tested prior to entering the House floor each day.  House members may require testing in their offices for staff and visitors, but the lower chamber left that option up to each individual member.  House members may also be allowed to vote for the first time from a room adjacent to the House chamber.  Meaning, they could vote from the members lounge, the back hall behind the chamber, or even the House gallery.  The House also declined to expand virtual testimony.  However, on a bill by bill basis, the chair of the committee may allow written testimony to be submitted electronically.  In past sessions, written testimony was required to be hand delivered prior to each hearing.  

After both chambers met last Thursday and adopted their rules, they have adjourned until Tuesday, January 26th