Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, March 10th (3:35 PM data)
Total Tests Performed – 23,894,111
Confirmed Cases – 2,330,216 (3,104 new cases)
Active Cases – 125,403
Hospitalizations – 4,556 (11,666 available beds, 1,057 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 44,875 (225 new deaths)
Recovered Cases – 2,526,462
Vaccine Data – Monday, March 10th (2:01 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 8,876,475
People with one dose received – 4,695,684
People fully vaccinated – 2,541,063
Total doses administered – 7,196,586
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Wednesday, March 10th was 7.28%. One month ago, there were 9,000 new cases reported, one week ago there were 4,800 new cases reported, compared to the 3,100 reported yesterday. The 4,556 COVID patients in hospitals now are 952 fewer than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 6.8% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 139,285 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of March 10th, 8.8% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Abbott Visits Border to Criticize Biden Administration
Governor Abbott traveled to Mission, Tx on Tuesday and criticized the Biden administration on Tuesday for what he called a growing “crisis” at the US-Mexico border caused by an uptick in migrant arrivals.
Abbott said in a news conference that he was briefed by both US Border Patrol officials and other Texas security teams during which he was given an aerial tour of the border. Throughout the tour he reports witnessing people crossing the border “illegally.” He blames Biden’s US-Mexico border policy changes for the increased crossings.
“There is a crisis on the Texas border right now with the overwhelming number of people who are coming across the border,” Abbott said.
“This crisis is a result of President Biden’s open border policies,” he said. “It invites illegal immigration and is creating a humanitarian crisis in Texas right now that will grow increasingly worse by the day.”
Most businesses will continue to encourage wearing of masks, 7 million Texans vaccinated as restrictions are lifted
This week, Governor Abbott’s order to lift the statewide mask mandate was fulfilled allowing Texas businesses to open 100%. Abbott’s order comes as the vast majority of Texas residents remain unvaccinated. Texas business owners now find the onus to enforce public health guidelines upon their own shoulders. Abbott said he was loosening the restrictions so families and businesses in Texas can determine their own destiny. Abbott said the state is in a completely different position now, as compared to last year due to the fact that there is more testing available and the vaccines are becoming more readily available.
Health officials still emphasize the importance of wearing masks to contain the spread of the virus. Large companies such as Alamo Drafthouse, H-E-B, Target and Albertson’s have chosen to resume the mask requirement despite Abbott’s order.
Tourism Industry Faces Historic Contraction
The COVID-19 has caused colossal damage to the US travel industry, grounding airlines, emptying hotels, and stopping almost all business and leisure travel for months. Although hotels and resorts implemented increased safety and sanitation measures and cautiously reopened in the second half of 2020, the pandemic’s second wave brought a new hit to businesses operating in the sector. According to the latest data, US travel agencies and tour operators are expected to generate $63.5 billion in revenue in 2021, $530 million less than in 2019. Before the pandemic, the US travel agencies and tour operators market witnessed impressive growth, with revenues rising from $42.6 billion in 2012 to $64 billion in 2019.
To try and encourage more travel and begin to recoup some of the losses, major US airlines and nearly 30 travel related groups are urging the Biden administration to develop new COVID credentials that would allow travelers to show digital proof of test results and vaccination status. Various tech companies have already launched COVID passports, but industry representatives say a uniform, government backed credential is necessary to accelerate safe travel and recovery for the travel industry. The response from the White House is that the administration’s immediate focus is on getting more people vaccinated before thinking about how to demonstrate whether or not a person is vaccinated.
Masks No Longer Required in Capitol, but House and Senate Uphold Stricter Rules
Now that Abbott’s statewide mask mandate has been lifted, people visiting the Texas Capitol will no longer have to wear face masks. Masks will be encouraged inside the state Capitol, but not required. However, the House and Senate will keep their stricter rules in place, at least for now. Leaders have not yet publicly announced plans to change their current protocols.
In the Senate, lawmakers and staff must test negative for the coronavirus before entering the chamber or attending committee hearings. In addition, unless a senator is seated alone at a desk, masks are required in the chamber at all times.
In the House, masks are also mandatory, unless a member is speaking from a microphone or protected by a barrier and socially distanced from others. Though testing is not required in the lower chamber, members are allowed to cast votes on legislation from outside the House floor.
A spokesperson for the State Preservation Board – the organization that oversees the Capitol grounds and is Chaired by Governor Abbott – said that starting Wednesday, the board will “strongly encourage” visitors to wear masks in public areas of the Capitol.
Texans 50+ Eligible for Vaccine Starting March 15th
Texans age 50 and over will be eligible to receive the COVID vaccine beginning March 15th. According to the Department of State Health Services, expanding to ages 50 to 64 will continue the state’s priorities of protecting those at the greatest risk of severe outcomes and preserving the state’s health care system. The decision to expand eligibility to more Texans (category 1C) means that vaccine availability is increasing across the state. Despite this, appointments may still to be hard to find as the number of eligible recipients outnumbers the vaccine supply. It is estimated that between 10 million and 13 million people were already eligible prior to the announcement of including those 50 and over.
Paxton in Trouble Again After Display of Nepotism
AG Ken Paxton, who is currently under FBI investigation over claims of using his office to help a political donor, recently gave a job to a onetime neighbor whose family chipped in $50,000 to help him fight a 2015 felony indictment.
The hiring of Tom Gleason, a former ice cream company executive whose career had little in common with his new $95,000-a-year state law enforcement role, adds to the growing list of examples of Paxton using his office to benefit donors, friends and political allies. The Associated Press has confirmed that Gleason went to work for Paxton in December through documents obtained under open records law.
Gleason was fired after less than two months on the job. Available records offer no explanation as to why. Paxton declined to answer a question about Gleason during an online forum about technology on Wednesday. The attorney general’s office and Gleason have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
First Hearing on Governor’s Pandemic Powers
The legislature is set to hold a hearing today on House Bill 3 — dealing with the pandemic response and more broadly the extent of executive power. Since the pandemic began almost a year ago, many have questioned Governor Greg Abbott’s response, with some critics pointing to government overreach while others desire for more executive leadership. Aspects of the proposed bill include limits on property tax rates and civil liability protections during a pandemic, as well as religious freedom protections. Furthermore, the legislation would prevent businesses compliant with COVID-19 precautions from being held responsible for injuries. Perhaps most relevant to the governor’s power, the bill would amend existing legislation to create a Pandemic Disaster Legislative Oversight Committee. This committee would have the ability to review a pandemic disaster declaration and other orders and terminate them. The bill comes after concerns that previous pandemic legislation did not place enough limits on executive power.
Bill Filing Deadline Tomorrow
Tomorrow is the 60th day of the legislative session. That is also the final day of the session that members can freely file legislation for consideration. Last session, House members filed over 4,700 bills and Senators filed over 2,500. With the condensed time frame of this session brough on by COVID and the winter storm, reaching those numbers again seems unlikely. At last glance, House members had filed roughly 3,900 bills and Senators had filed about 1,600 bills. The deadline to submit bills is 6PM tomorrow.
There are 81 days left in the legislative session. The Senate convenes at 4PM today, the House is adjourned until 4PM on Monday, March 15th.