Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, May 17th (3:20 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 2,498,217 (318 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 2,157 (12,160 available beds, 1,070 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 49,900 (23 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Monday, May 17th (3:00 PM data)
Doses Shipped by state – 21,016,190
People vaccinated – 11,906,503
People fully vaccinated – 9,424,360
Total doses administered – 20,578,980
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Wednesday, May 18th was 4.27%. One month ago, there were 1,400 new cases reported, one week ago there were 2,900 new cases reported, compared to the 318 reported yesterday. The 2,157 COVID patients in hospitals now is 43 fewer patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 3.4% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 144,147 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Wednesday, May 16th, 32.5% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Abbott Says Public Schools, Government Entities Cannot Require Masks
Gov. Abbott announced today that in preparation for all students returning to in classroom learning this fall, no student, teacher, parent, or other staff member or visitor may be required to wear a face covering. The new Executive Order, effective June 5th, says public schools and government entities (including cities and counties) cannot require masks to be worn on their campuses or properties. If entities do not comply, they could face a fine of up to $1,000. The order exempts state-supported living centers, government owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities, and county and municipal jails.
The order is arguably the most consequential for public schools since the vast majority of children are unvaccinated.
Ban on Transgender Affirming Surgery Revivied in Senate
This week, the Texas Senate resuscitated legislation related to transgender children, by passing a bill banning gender-affirming health care for children under 18. This comes just days after a similar bill failed to advance in the House. The Senate passed the bill with an 18-13 vote on Tuesday. It will now go to the House for consideration. Under this bill – Senate Bill 1311 – any physician who prescribes hormone therapy or puberty suppression treatment for the purpose of gender transitioning would have their medical license revoked and could not be covered under liability insurance. These measures would also apply to doctors who perform transition-related surgeries for children, which is rarely used before puberty.
Opponents of the bill call it unconsitutional and note the negative effects it will have on the mental health of trans children who already find themselves at a heightened risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Medical experts testified in a Senate State Affairs committee hearing that access to gender confirmation care is essential to diminishing the elevated risks of suicide and depression among transgender Texans. Businesses leaders also singled out SB 1311 as a bill they say may scare workers and businesses away from Texas.
Air conditioners will be placed in prisons
State Rep. Terry Canales filed House Bill 1971 to begin slowly installing air conditioning units in Texas’ uncooled prisons. The units will come at a maximum cost of $100 million per biennium. The bill would initiate three two-year phases of installation. The end goal is to have all state prisons cooled below 85 degrees before 2029. The House agreed to the bill on a 123-18 vote, but it will only come to fruition if lawmakers set aside money for it. It has now been sent to the Senate. When presenting the bill on the floor, Canales said, “the reality is, in Texas, we are cooking people in prisons. This is the right thing to do, it is the humane thing to do, and it’s something we should have done a long time ago.” As of now, 70% of the state’s nearly 100 prison facilities do not have air conditioning in living areas. Some areas, like administrative offices and infirmaries, are air conditioned at all units.
Texas Reports Zero Covid Deaths
Sunday marked the first day in well over a year that Texas reported no deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. That being said, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported another 23 deaths from the virus just one day later. However, this number is largely due to discrepancies in reporting deaths from Covid, which typically necessitates an autopsy. As people continue to get vaccinated, many are feeling confident about the future of the pandemic in Texas, with the state achieving a record low seven day positivity rate. Similarly, hospitalizations have reached their lowest point since summer 2020. While Texas still remains behind in overall vaccinations, ranked at 40 out of the rest of the US, Governor Greg Abbott celebrated the news given that Texas had, at one point, one of the worst outbreaks across the country.
Texas to Opt Out of $300/week Unemployment Benefits
Governor Greg Abbott announced on Monday that he is pulling out of a federal aid program that gives unemployed Texas an extra $300 dollars per week alongside standard unemployment benefits. The news comes following pressure from business groups, as well as other governors who followed a similar path in order to encourage people to rejoin the labor force. Data collected from the University of Texas at Austin illustrated that around 344,000 Texans were receiving aid through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program as of April 30th. Similarly, Governor Abbott also announced his withdrawal from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which aided people who aren’t typically covered by unemployment, such as gig workers and self-employed people. When asked about the decision, the governor responded, “According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits.”
George P. Bush Expected to Challenge AG Ken Paxton
George P Bush, the current Texas Land Commissioner, is expected to challenge the Attorney General, Ken Paxton, in the primaries. His exploration to run comes after legal issues that have beleaguered Paxton. Since the current AG took office, he has been indicted on state securities fraud charges as well as a recent FBI investigation that alleged that he exploited his position to assist affluent donors. Despite Paxton’s denials, Bush posited that he is seriously considering the run because “the top law enforcement official in Texas needs to be above reproach.” Other top Texas Republicans have been tacit in their support of Paxton, with Sen. John Cornyn declining to comment on the challenge. That being said, Paxton is likely to have the support of the Republican Attorney General Association. However, given that both have expressed support for former President Donald Trump, so it is unclear what role he may play in Bush’s challenge of the AG.
The House convened at 10AM today and worked through their calendar very quickly and will convene again at 10AM tomorrow. The Senate also met very briefly today and will convene at 11AM tomorrow. Both chambers are passing bills now that have originated in the opposite chamber. Further, they have reached the stage in session where they are beginning to appoint conference committees to settle differences in bills passed by both Houses. Next Tuesday is the last day that each chamber can pass stand- alone legislation. After that, they can only concur in amendments and adopt conference committee reports. The session ends on May 31st