Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, January 4th (3:30 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 16,225,891

Confirmed Cases – 1,598,713 (15,976 new cases)

Active Cases – 306,522

Hospitalizations – 12,961 (11,672 available beds, 623 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 27,969 (52 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 1,464,746

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Sunday, January 3rd was 21.13%.  One month ago, there were 13,600 new cases reported, one week ago there were 12,800 new cases reported, compared to the 15,976 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has increased by 4,736 cases.  The 12,961 COVID patients in hospitals now are 1,610 more than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 20.1% of total hospital beds in the state.

New Cases and Hospitalizations Break Records

As we enter the new year, single day records for new infections, deaths, and hospitalizations are common occurrences.  As of Friday, January 1st, the total number of deaths nationwide was just under 350,000, and the country is averaging about 4,000 deaths per day.  In Texas, the death toll has reached nearly 28,000.  And, yesterday, the nearly 13,000 patients hospitalized for COVID related illness was the 8th time in 9 days the state reached a record high for hospitalizations.  The rate of over 21% of those testing positive for the virus is also the highest rate the state has seen.

Questions Surrounding Vaccine Rollout

With the record levels of infections and hospitalizations, still only about one-third of the vaccine doses allocated to Texas have been given out.  A total of 1.9 million Texans – front line health care workers, nursing home patients – are eligible for the first round of vaccinations.  According to the Department of Health Services, as of yesterday, Texas had distributed 944,275 doses to health care providers.  Of those doses distributed, 414,211 doses have been administered.  State officials also announced yesterday that Texas will receive an additional 325,000 doses this week for an additional 949 health care providers.  This brings the state’s allotment to just under 1.3 million, well short of the 1.9 million needed to accommodate all those eligible for the first round of vaccinations.  Not all counties have received the vaccines.  With these additional doses, only 214 of the state’s 254 counties will have received a shipment of the vaccine.  

Confusion over who gets the vaccine and when continues to be the theme.  State officials claimed over the holiday season that hospitals and health care providers should have plenty of vaccines in supply and suggested eligibility can be expanded beyond the initial group.  Hospitals and pharmacies shot back, saying the health care industry is vaccinating those eligible as quickly as possible, and most are waiting on the state for the next shipment of vaccines.  Many Texans are looking for answers on when they will be eligible, and no one seems to have the answer as to when the next phase will begin.  Bad news is, at this rate, we could be well into the summer months before the general public is able to receive the vaccine.

Initial Census Estimates

According to the new population estimates just released by the Census Bureau, Texas now has a population of 29.36 million people.  Texas gained 4.2 million people from the 2010 Census.  Using these estimates, Texas is in line to gain three Congressional districts, giving the state 39 seats in the US House.  Other states gaining seats are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon.  States losing seats are California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

These are just estimates, and the Census bureau is expected to release the first set of 2020 data on February 9th, and the official numbers to be sent to the states is due by April 1st.  This is the data that the state will use for its redistricting process.  Every 10 years after each census, states utilize the new census data to redraw all state House and Senate seats, as well as districts for the US Congressional delegation.  Due to complications from COVID, the Census Bureau has warned states that the population data may not be delivered until May 10th.  With the regular session set to conclude on May 31st, this would all but ensure a series of special sessions for the Legislature to complete its task.

State Prevails Over Austin in Restaurant, Stay At Home Battle

On December 29th, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown announced orders intended to slow down the spread of the virus over the holiday weekend.  The orders required restaurants to provide take out only from 10:30PM to 6AM from New Year’s Eve to January 3rd, and strongly urged city and county residents to stay in their homes during the same time period.  On Friday, the state Supreme Court blocked those orders after Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the city and county over the orders.  Similar attempts by local officials throughout the state have been met with the same resistance from Paxton, and he said he will continue to fight any local order to shut down any business during the pandemic.

Capitol Reopens / Opening Day Protocols

With the session beginning next week, the State Preservation Board reopened the state Capitol on Monday to public access.  Masks are required in all areas of the building and capacity limitations will be in place.  Visitors may use only the north entrance.  The Board also has a rapid testing available that is recommended, but not required for those entering the Capitol.

Opening day is next Tuesday, January 12th.  A day that is usually filled with a great deal of ceremony and activity will be scaled down significantly.  The Capitol is usually filled with lobbyists, constituents, and other on lookers for the first day when members are sworn in.  This year, members will have limited guests on the floor during the swearing in ceremony, and the House and Senate galleries will be observing limited capacity.  No receptions, gatherings, or any of the other activities surrounding the opening day will take place.