Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, June 28th (2:20 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,543,253 (221 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 1,428 (11,516 available beds, 916 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 51,201 (2 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Monday, June 28th (1:15 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 21,600,340
People vaccinated – 13,799,050
People fully vaccinated – 11,852,042
Total doses administered – 24,659,386
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Sunday, June 27th was 3.76%. One month ago, there were 1,400 new cases reported, one week ago there were 387 new cases reported, compared to the 221 reported yesterday. The 1,428 COVID patients in hospitals now is 75 fewer patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 2.2% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 72,247 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Sunday, June 27th , 40.8% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Vice-President Harris Makes First Trip to Border
Last Friday, Vice-President Kamala Harris traveled to El Paso, which was her first trip to the Texas/Mexico border. The only elected official from Texas to accompany her during her time in Texas was Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, who represents the El Paso region in Congress. Harris visted the border facility there, and met with children being held at the facility. Harris said the main role of the government is to try and deal with the root causes of why there are so many immigrants trying to enter the country. She also said the administration’s goal was to provide legal pathways, restore order, and establish a means for immigrants to apply for asylum.
Most Republican officials, including Gov. Abbott, have harshly criticized the administration for its handling of the border crisis, saying that the policies of the Biden administration have led to this unprecedented surge in migrants seeking to enter the US. Harris was also widely criticized for not visiting the Rio Grande Valley, which has seen by far the most crossings over the past several months. The highly partisan debate will continue, with the administration wanting to provide what they call meaningful solutions, while the Republicans say that the influx has to be addressed immediately due to the health and public safety issues being caused by the massive number of attempts to enter the country. Former President Trump is set to visit the border region tomorrow, in the Rio Grande Valley and will be accompanied by Gov. Abbott, and possibly Senators Cornyn and Cruz.
Polls Show Mixed News for Abbott Reelection
Quinnipiac University released a poll over the weekend that showed mixed results for Gov. Abbott’s reelection chances. The good news for him is that among Republicans, Abbott is supported by 85% of Republican primary voters. Abbott has over $40 million on hand for his reelection bid. Former state Senator Don Huffines has already announced a primary challenge to Abbott, and outgoing state Republican Party Chairman Allen West is likely to jump into the primary race as well. The poll showed both with very little name ID and both will start with a significant financial disadvantage.
However, overall Texas registered voters give Abbott a lukewarm grade on his job performance, with 48% giving him approval and 46% disapproving of the job he is doing. Abbott has an overall favorable/unfavorable rating of 49/43. Good, but not strong numbers for an incumbent. Potential candidate and actor Matthew McConaughey comes in with a 42/20 rating, while former Congressman Beto O’Rourke comes in underwater at 34/42. Neither of the latter two names mentioned have made a decision on whether or not to challenge Abbott, and it seems that O’Rourke remains popular among partisan Democrats, but does not have substantial support among the larger electorate.
Democrats Sue Abbott Over Funding Veto
A group of state House Democrats and legislative staffers have filed a complaint with the Texas Supreme Court asking the Court to override Abbott’s veto of the portion of the budget that funds the state legislature. Abbott vetoed the entire budget for the legislature and all of its supporting entities in retaliaition for the Democrats breaking quorum on the last weekend of the legislative session to prevent consideration and passage of an elections bill. If the veto stands, then all legislative employees will lose their jobs effective September 1st. The complaint filed with the Supreme Court claims that Abbott has exceeded his authority of separation of powers with the veto. Furthermore, the complaint alleges that this action sets a precedent wherein any Governor can coerce the legislature to pass his preferred items, or risk losing funding. The nine member state Supreme Court has not given an indication of if or when they would consider the complaint.
STAAR Test Scores Suffer Due to Pandemic
Learning and student progress suffered during the recently concluded school year, according to the results from the state’s standardized test scores released yesterday. The state administers the STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) test annually to assess the progress of its students. The test is mandatory during normal times, but was optional last year due to the number of school districts that held classes virtually due to the pandemic. Students suffered the most in math, with the percentage of students that scored below their grade level rising by 16 percentage points. Students with reading scores below their grade average rose by 4 points.
Students in school districts with higher percentages of in person learning fared much better than those that learned mostly on a remote basis. To comat the fact that so many students have fallen behind, school administrators will create and require accelerated learning plans for students that have fallen behind in the third, fifth, and eighth grade levels. Statewide tutoring services will be offered to districts as well as ways to try and improve virtual learning. However, most districts will be required to have in person learning for all students in the upcoming school year.
Special Session Begins Next Week
Gov. Abbott has already said that the first called session of the legislature will begin on Thursday, July 8th. He has not issued the official proclamation, which he can do anytime prior to the 8th. He has also not given a full breakdown of what will be considered during the session. In a special session, only specific items declared by the Governor can be considered. This differs from the regular session, where any bill and subject matter is eligible for consideration. We do know of three items that will be considered. Those are items related to election law reform, bail reform, and the teaching of critical race theory in schools. Speculation is that the call could grow to include restoration of funding for the legislature, consideration of standards applicable to social media scrutiny, prohibiition of cities hiring lobby representation, issues related to transgender children, and issues related to border security.