Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Wednesday, October 13th (2:45 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 3,451,823 (7,135 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 6,084 (8,898 available beds, 700 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 67,012 (312 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Wednesday, October 13th (2:00 PM data)
Total doses administered – 32,239,787
People vaccinated – 17,490,245
People fully vaccinated – 15,135,085
Doses Shipped by state – 24,962,320
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Wednesday, October 13th was 7.86%. One month ago, there were 8,100 new cases reported, one week ago there were 10,100 new cases reported, compared to the 7,135 reported yesterday. The 6,084 COVID patients in hospitals now is 1,390 less patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 9.5% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 24,012 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Wednesday, October 13th 51.9% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Abbott Bans Vaccine Mandates, Adds to Call of Session
On Monday, Gov. Abbott issued another executive order relating to vaccine mandates. This time Abbott is attempting to ban any entity in the state from requiring vaccinations for employees or customers. This includes private businesses. At the same time, Abbott added this issue to the call of the current special session, which is scheduled to end on October 19th. The order is in direct contrast to previous statements made by Abbott regarding the imposition of governmental mandates on private entities. As recently as late August, Abbott was quoted as saying that “private businesses don’t need government running their business.”
In a previous executive order, Abbott had already banned vaccine requirements by governmental entities such as school boards and cities. The federal government has already issued an order to require all employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines for their workers, or test weekly for the virus. The federal order also requires all federal employees and contractors to get vaccinated, which has led American Airlines and Southwest Airlines – both headquartered in Texas – to required vaccinations for all employees. In spite of the order by Abbott, both airlines say they will continue to comply with the federal order, saying that federal orders always supersede those of the state government.
Several health care related groups immediately criticized the Governor’s action, saying that the inability to require vaccinations for workers in the healthcare field will put the workers at unnecessary risk. One of the state’s largest business organizations, the Greater Houston Partnership, also criticized Abbott, saying that this order harms the ability of businesses throughout the state to create a safe workplace, and they will continue to promote the importance of vaccinations with their employees. The expectation is that there will be several lawsuits filed to challenge this latest executive order and its validity.
House Passes Redistricting Plan
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the state House passed a proposed new plan for its chambers 150 districts. After nearly 17 hours of debate and consideration of over 60 amendments, the House passed the new plan largely along party lines. The House did adopt 39 amendments to the plan, that focused mostly on Harris and Dallas Counties. The plan will increase the Republican majority in the lower chamber, which now sits at 83-67. The new plan has the potential of electing up to 90 Republicans to the House, if it stays in place for the 2022 elections. The newly passed plan, with data and maps, can be found here: https://data.capitol.texas.gov/dataset/71af633c-21bf-42cf-ad48-4fe95593a897/resource/f5880db7-f739-49ea-bfd2-29feb4c6003f/download/planh2316_map_report_package.pdf
Continued Legal Battles Over Abortion Law
Yesterday, the Biden administration again filed a motion urging the courts to suspend the state’s new abortion law that bans most abortions after the 6th week of pregnancy. Over the weekend, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the law in response to the ruling by a lower court that suspended the law. The new law – SB 8 – that was passed during the regular session this spring, bans abortions in Texas once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually about 6 weeks into the pregnancy. It immediately faced legal challenges, and now awaits direction from the 5th Circuit. It is not clear when or if the appeals court will make a ruling on the trial court’s decision to suspend the law, and the state has until today to respond to the Biden administration’s latest filing.
Feds To Open Border Crossings
The federal government will reopen land borders to non essential travel next month, ending 19 months of border closures due to the pandemic. The new policy will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US regardless of the reason for travel. This new policy was welcomed by many in Texas border communities, who depend on visitors from Mexico who enter the US on a daily basis for shopping, dining, and visiting friends and relatives. Many businesses along the border also depend on residents from Mexico to commute daily to work in US based businesses such as bars, restaurants, and retail. The new policy goes into effect in January. In addition to the non essential traveler, those traveling for essential purposes such as health care workers, commercial truck drivers, and students will also have to show proof of vaccination to cross back and forth between the US, Mexico, and Canada.
Veteran Republican state Representative Lyle Larson announced yesterday that he would not seek reelection in 2022. Larson was elected from the San Antonio area in 2010, and has been a very popular and sometimes controversial member of the House since his election. Recently, Larson has made headlines by breaking with his fellow Republican members on issues such as voting restrictions, abortion, and critical race theory. Larson, a staunch ally and supporter of former Speaker Joe Straus, served in several leadership positions, including Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee during the 2019 session.
The newest member of the Texas House was sworn in this week. Brian Harrison, who won the special election in House District 10 in north Texas, has taken his seat in the House. He was immediately appointed to the Licensing and Administrative Procedures and Energy Resources Committees. These are the two committees on which his predecessor, Jake Ellzey, served during the regular session. Ellzey ascended to Congress in July, which prompted the need for the special election.
The runoff for the vacant District 118 in the Texas House has been set for November 2nd. The runoff features Democrat Frank Ramirez and Republican John Lujan. Lujan briefly held the seat in 2016 before losing to Leo Pacheco, who recently resigned to accept a faculty position at a local community college. Lujan finished first in the initial special election with 42% of the vote, compared to 20% for Ramirez.
Round Rock Democratic House member James Talarico announced yesterday he is moving to Austin to run for an open seat currently held by Rep. Celia Israel, who is not seeking reelection. Talarico’s Williamson County seat was redrawn during the redistricting process to favor electing a Republican, and the district to which Talarico will be moving is solidly Democratic, encompassing parts of north and east Austin. Talarico already has competition for the Democratic nomination. Pflugerville City Councilman Rudy Metayer has announced his intention to seek the nomination for the seat as well.
Yesterday, the House considered another item in the call, related to reform of the state’s bail system for criminal defendants. That bill failed to pass on the House floor and has not been rescheduled for a vote. The House will work in session today and tomorrow. Today, they will consider legislation relating to participation of transgender athletes in school sports, followed by consideration of appropriations of federal COVID relief funds on Friday. The Senate will meet to pass the House’s redistricting plan on Friday, and then wait for House versions of the appropriations bills to determine the need for a conference committee on that issue. The session is scheduled to end on Tuesday, October 19th.