Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Tuesday, November 17th  (6:30 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 10,479,292

Confirmed Cases – 1,039,513 (10,826 new cases)

Active Cases – 139,048

Hospitalizations – 7,841 (12,511 available beds, 986 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 19,696 (117 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 883,223

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Saturday, November 14th  was 10.98%.  One month ago, there were 5,682 new cases reported, one week ago there were 10,605 new cases reported, compared to the 10,826 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has increased by 1,219 cases.  The 7,841 COVID patients in hospitals now are 907 more than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 11.8% of total hospital beds in the state.

Pfizer to Start Pilot Program for Vaccine Distribution in Texas

To try and get a head start on the distribution challenges for the Pfizer vaccine, that requires the vaccine to be shipped and stored at -70 degrees Celsius, the company announced yesterday a pilot program for delivery of the vaccine.  The Pfizer vaccine has proven to be more than 90% effective against COVID in clinical trials.

The delivery pilot program will be rolled out in Texas, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Tennessee.  Texas, along with the three other states, was chosen due to its size, population diversity, and immunization infrastructure already in place that is needed to serve both urban and rural settings.  This does not give Texas or the other states any preferential treatment regarding early delivery of the vaccine, the program is designed to serve as a model for other states to implement in the process of distribution.  The company expects to have their data finalized by the third week of November, when it then plans to apply for Emergency Use Authorization.  After that authorization is approved, distribution of the vaccine is expected to begin before the end of the calendar year.

Texas Sets Record for Infections

On Tuesday, the state reported 10,826 new coronavirus infections, which is a new daily record.  The previous high was 10,791 set on July 15th.  COVID patients now make up over 15% of hospital patients several regions of the state.  Statewide, more than 7,800 Texans are hospitalized for COVID.  Health care professionals are sounding the alarm bell, especially due to the onset of the holiday season.  They are encouraging everyone to limit their Thanksgiving gatherings to only members of their household, citing small neighborhood and friendly gatherings with members outside of your household as a primary reason for the spike in infections.  

Texas Continues to Stay Open as Other States Implement Lockdowns

Across the country, as COVID infections continue to rise, many other states and cities are implementing at least partial lockdowns. The Governor of Oregon has placed the state in a 2 week lockdown, New Mexico is under a stay at home order, and North Dakota has scaled back indoor dining and gone under a mask mandate.  The Governor of Illinois says he will issue a stay at home order soon, and New York Governor Cuomo has said he will convene a meeting with his counterparts in six northeastern states to determine the best way for those states to enact similar restrictions.

Texas state leaders have declared they have no plans for a statewide lockdown.  Governor Abbott reiterated that it is the responsibility of the local leaders to enforce the executive orders he has issued over the last several months intended to combat the spread of the virus.  Attorney General Ken Paxton has intervened when local El Paso officials tried to implement more restrictive measures such as shuttering non-essential businesses.  Governor Abbott has said he will continue to monitor all outbreaks in the state, work closely with local officials, and provide the necessary treatments and resources to help any community faced with an increase in infections and hospitalizations.

Even though Gov. Abbott intends to stay the course on a statewide basis, many local officials are again calling for more authority to impose restrictions.  Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has been the most vocal, urging the county’s residents to limit Thanksgiving gatherings to immediate family only.  The county will also send out a cell phone alert urging all residents to get tested, whether they are showing symptoms or not.

FBI Investigating Attorney General Ken Paxton

In the ongoing legal saga involving the state Attorney General, the Associated Press has confirmed that Paxton is being investigated by the FBI.  The investigation centers around his relationship with Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.  The investigation was prompted by accusations by former employees of the AG’s office that Paxton abused the duties of his office to assist Paul with his own legal troubles.  The accusations include bribery and other crimes.  The focus of the investigation appears to center around the fact that Paxton used agency resources to hire outside counsel to assist Paul with allegations that arose after the FBI searched his home and office last year.  

Paxton released a statement on Tuesday, saying he is ready to defend himself against these allegations, saying he has been falsely accused by disgruntled employees and overzealous prosecutors.  Paxton went on to say in his statement that he unfortunately has experience with being falsely accused, referring to his 5 year old federal felony indictment on securities fraud charges.  Paxton has yet to stand trial for these charges.  

The Texas legislative session begins in 55 days.