Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Thursday, March 18th (3:50 PM data)
Total Tests Performed – 24,507,017
Confirmed Cases – 2,359,556 (3,757 new cases)
Active Cases – 108,696
Hospitalizations – 3,846 (12,174 available beds, 1,092 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 46,077 (198 new deaths)
Recovered Cases – 2,578,085
Vaccine Data – Monday, March 18th (1:46 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 10,275,405
People with one dose received – 5,866,075
People fully vaccinated – 2,990-,796
Total doses administered – 8,668,420
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Wednesday, March 17th was 6.47%. One month ago, there were 2,700 new cases reported, one week ago there were 3,100 new cases reported, compared to the 3,757 reported yesterday. The 3,846 COVID patients in hospitals now are 560 fewer than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 5.7% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 137,412 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of March 17th,10.3% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Fight Over Storm Response, Electric Repricing Continues
After the House made clear they would not pass the legislation approved by the Senate to reverse billions of dollars in overcharges resulting from last month’s winter storm, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick yesterday called on Governor Abbott to act on the overcharges before criticial deadlines pass. Armed with a recent opinion from the state Attorney General, Patrick says he believes even without the opinion, Abbott can act and do this on his own. The AG opinion clearly stated that the Public Utility Commission, and executive agency, has the power to reverse charges during a declared emergency. Furthermore, Patrick said that if Abbott does not want to reverse the charges on his own, then he should ask ERCOT at the very least investigate the alleged overpricing to give the Legislature more time to act. Abbott’s response was that he has already sent a list of emergency items to the Legislature to consider, and he vows to continue to work with both the House and Senate to ensure policies are put in place to protect rate payers from excessive charges.
On the House side, a House committee last night advanced several bills related to the storm recovery. This included measures that would require electric generators to weather proof power plants to the restructuring of the ERCOT board. The weatherization related bill gives the Public Utility Commission the ability to develop standards that will better prepare power plants for extreme weather. In the proposal to restructure the ERCOT board, the bill will replace the current board structure, that allowed for out of state directors with no affiliations to the industry, with five appointees required to live in the state of Texas. House leadership declared these bills a priority and could move them to the House floor for consideration as early as next week.
Immigration/Border Fight Heating Up
There is no doubt that the state response to all of the fiascos that occurred during and since the winter storm last month has gained most of the time and attention of the lawmakers and media during the last several weeks of the session. However, with the crisis at the border receiving significant national attention, that situation is threatening to challenge for attention at the state level. On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Abbott went to Dallas to criticize the Biden administration for their handling of the crossing of unaccompanied children into Texas. The setting was the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, where the federal government is sending over 3,000 minor children for detention.
Abbott criticized the administration for not being better prepared for this crisis, and predicted that the federal government will have to expand the number of sites to house minor children entering the US. Abbott says in response, the state will increase its efforts to investigate and apprehend human traffickers, as it is believed that the drug cartels are chiefly responsible for helping migrants cross the border. Abbott has formally requested that the federal government let state DPS officers have access to the detention facilities so they can interview the migrant children in an attempt to help identify human traffickers.
Acevedo Leaving Houston for Miami
In a surprise move, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced this week that he would be leaving his post in Houston and would be taking over as Police Chief in Miami. The move caught many in Houston off guard, including Mayor Sylvester Turner who said he did not know of Acevedo’s plans ahead of the announcement. Acevedo will now oversee a force of 1,400 officers, which is significantly lower than the nearly 5,500 officers he has charge over in Houston. Acevedo was rumored to have political ambitions, having been rumored to be considering a run for mayor in 2023 when Mayor Turner is unable to seek reelection due to term limits. Apparently, political powers in Houston have not warmed to the prospect of Acevedo running for the city’s highest office. Furthermore, a strong political ally of Acevedo’s, state Senator John Whitmire, is also seriously considering a run for mayor in 2023. Whitmire is Dean of the Texas Senate, having first been elected to that body in 1982.
Moving quicky, Mayor Turner announced yesterday that Troy Finner will be Houston’s next police chief. Finner will be promoted from his current position of Executive Assistant Chief, and has been on the force since 1990. He began as a patrol officer, was promoted to sergeant in 2002, has worked his way up to the ranks, finally being promoted to assistant chief in 2014.
There are 74 days remaining in the regular session. The House is adjourned until 4:00PM today , and the Senate is adjourned until 2:00PM Monday. Neither chamber has any legislation on their calendars for consideration on the floor