COVID Cases Continue an Upward Trend, Hospitalizations Also Rise Slightly
New infections continue on an upward trend, with 5,552 new cases reported by the state today. The number of new infections have continued a slow but steady rise over the past several weeks. These cases are apparently mild in nature. While hospitalizations are on the rise, they continue to remain low relative to the peak numbers during the height of the pandemic. As of yesterday, there were 1,381 people hospitalized with COVID related illness, which is roughly 100 more than one week ago.
Uvalde School Shooting
The special committee of the Texas House investigating the Uvalde school shooting will meet today, but most of it will be behind closed doors. The committee will immediately go into executive session to discuss the response by police so the members can hear from law enforcement . After the testimony, the committee will send a report to the full House, as early as the first week of August.
Federal investigators have also begun an investigation into the response by law enforcement to the shooting. Yesterday, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the investigation was not criminal in nature, characterizing it as a critical incident review. The intention he said is to gather facts on what went right and what didn’t, and make recommendations on how to deal with such incidents in the future.
Lt Gov. Dan Patrick has called on the legislature to appropriate $50 million to buy bullet proof shields for school police officers. Such a move during the interim period would require action from the Legislative Budget Board, which he chairs. But, the request would have to get approval from House Speaker Dade Phelan and the other members of the board. Phelan has said he wants to wait on the findings of his chamber’s committee before considering the proposal.
Many Republican officials have indicated support for arming teachers in the wake of the shooting. The Texas Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of AFL-CIO, sent out a survey to its 65,000 members last week to gauge the support or opposition among teachers to having the ability to have weapons available to them. 5,100 members responded, and of that group, 76% said they do not want to be armed. The respondents indicated strong support for red flag laws, raising the minimum age of purchase from 18 to 21, and a ban on assault weapons.
Texas Reports First Case of Monkeypox
Health officials have identified their first case of monkeypox in the state, but insisted the illness does not currently pose a health risk to the general public. The case identified was in Dallas County. There are now about 35 cases nationwide, spread over 14 states. There have been over 1,000 cases reported worldwide in 29 countries. The diseases is typically only found in countries in western Africa in animals known to carry the virus. It can be spread from animals to humans. Health officials say anyone that has been vaccinated against smallpox will have at least some protection against monkeypox.
Transfers of Inmates Suspended
On May 12th of this year, an inmate that was incarcerated for capital murder escaped from a bus on its way to Huntsville from Gatesville, and stayed on the run for three weeks. The inmate freed himself from his restraints and assaulted two guards to get free. The search ended when the inmate was shot and killed south of San Antonio by law enforcement officials. During his run, the inmate is believed to have killed a grandfather and his four grandsons at a vacation home in Leon County so he could steal their truck and continue his spree. Texas prison officials have now suspended inmate transfers pending a comprehensive review of its transportation procedures. The Department of Criminal Justice said it will bring in outside consultation to ensure that all safety measures are put in place moving forward before any more inmate transfers take place. Inmate transfers are necessary due to terms of release or medical issues.
Early voting is underway in the race for Congressional District 34 in south Texas. The special election is necessary to replace former Congressman Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year. Four candidates have filed to run in the special election including Mayra Flores, who is the Republican nominee for the seat for the 2022 election that will determine who will be sworn in for the full two year term in January. Democrats Dan Sanchez and Rene Coronado are also in the race. In the first week of early voting, over 8,000 people have voted, which is relatively high considering the time of year and number of elections that have taken place recently. Of the 8,000, roughly half voted in the March 1st Democratic primary compared to only 29% that voted in the Republican primary. 22% are new voters for this race, not having voted in either primary on March 1st.
Two hotly contested Democratic runoffs for Congressional seats are headed for recounts. In the high profile Congressional District 28, challenger Jessica Cisneros has requested a recount of her 281 vote loss to incumbent Democrat Henry Cuellar of Laredo. In Congressional District 15 based in the upper Rio Grande Valley, challenger Ruben Ramirez requested a recount of his 30 vote loss to Democrat Michelle Vallejo of Mission. Both seats are considered safe for the Democrats, so the eventual winners of these recounts and runoffs will likely win in November.
With the primary election season over for now, numerous committee hearings are taking place, and many are scheduled in the coming weeks.
Upcoming meetings include the House Special Committee on the Robb Elementary School Shooting, the House State Affairs Committee to discuss the reliability of the electric grid, and the Senate Finance Committee to discuss Medicaid and long term health care funding.
The schedule and details of all interim hearings can be found here: https://capitol.texas.gov