Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Wednesday, January 20th (3:20 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 18,503,403

Confirmed Cases – 1,898,549 (25,512 new cases)

Active Cases – 378,988

Hospitalizations – 13,870 (10,250 available beds, 618 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 32,844 (450 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 1,739,136

Vaccine Data – Wednesday, January 20th (12:58 PM data)

Doses Shipped by state – 2,456,550

People with one dose received – 1,241,950

People fully vaccinated – 184,909

Total doses administered – 1,426,859

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Tuesday,  January 19th was 16.61%.  One month ago, there were 12,900 new cases reported, one week ago there were 22,100 new cases reported, compared to the 25,512 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has decreased by 1,130 cases.  The 13,870 COVID patients in hospitals now are 236 fewer than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 20.6% of total hospital beds in the state.

Update on Vaccine Rollout

In a press conference in Houston on Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Abbott praised the vaccine rollout, saying the newly created vaccine hubs are responsible for the speeding up of more people getting vaccinated.  According to Abbott and other state health officials, 78% of the doses that have been shipped out have been administered.  There are now 80 hubs throughout the state, many of which are capable of administering several thousand doses each day.  Houston Methodist Hospital has reported vaccinating 4,000 per day.  Texas has vaccinated well over 1 million people with at least one dose, and the state is expecting an additional 500,000 doses on the way next week, tagged for second doses.  

In what could be a major boost to the speed of the vaccine rollout, Johnson & Johnson announced last night that the results of their final stage clinical trials from their vaccine will be ready by the end of this month, and that would be the third vaccine authorized by the FDA.  The difference between this vaccine and the others already in distribution is that the J&J vaccine requires only normal refrigeration and requires only one dose. The number of people being vaccinated would then double, once the vaccine hits the distribution chain.  It is not known exactly when the vaccine will be made available to the public.  

Biden Sworn In, Executive Orders Impact Texas

After being sworn in as the 46th President yesterday, President Biden issued a series of executive orders, many of which will impact the state of Texas.  Relative to immigration policy, one order will reestablish the protections granted under the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, and another rolls back some immigration policies set forth by the Trump administration.  In addition to the executive orders, the Biden administration sent a comprehensive immigration reform bill to Congress that would call for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including 1.7 million people here in Texas.  Biden’s orders also halt construction of the border wall, pending his administration’s review of funding and contract methods.

Along that same subject matter, Biden is also expected to ensure undocumented immigrants are included in the census count, reasoning that all persons living in each state should be counted, regardless of immigration status.  The census will determine the makeup of legislative and congressional seats for the next 10 years, and without the inclusion of all people living in Texas, the state could see fewer benefits and not receive the three new congressional seats that are projected for the state due to an increase in population from the 2010 census. 

And another executive order that received the most attention and resistance, called for the revocation of  the permits for the Keystone Pipeline.  This project is an oil pipeline system designed to run from western Canada all the way to the refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.  If and when completed, the pipeline will have the capacity to deliver 700,000 barrels of oil per day to Texas refineries, adding thousands of jobs during construction and after completion.  Many of the state’s elected officials, at both the federal and state level, sharply criticized this order, saying this is an unnecessary and purely political maneuver targeting an industry that has suffered through the pandemic.

State Budget Bill Filed

Even though the legislature has met in session for only 3 days so far, work continues in the Capitol.  An example of that is the filing of Senate Bill 1, which is the Senate’s version of the state budget.  The state budget is the only “must pass” bill for the session.  According to Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson (R, Flower Mound), the budget filed today is a starting point, that funds essential services, maintains growth measures, and meets obligations to the state’s vulnerable citizens.  The bill as filed appropriates $251.2 billion in all funds (state and federal), and represents a 4 percent growth in general revenue dollars.  The 4 percent growth is well within projected population and inflation growth, and includes an across the board 5 percent reduction in state agency funding that was implemented last year due to the pandemic.

The House version has not been filed.  The House has not appointed its committee chairs and members, and is not expected to do so until the first week of February.  After those appointments are made, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee will file the House version of the state budget.  Each House will pass their version of the budget, and then the final version will be determined by a conference committee.  

There are 131 days remaining in the regular session. The House is adjourned until 1:00PM on Tuesday, January 26th, and the Senate is adjourned until 3:00PM on Tuesday, January 26th.