Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Thursday, October 15th  (3:45 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 7,769,036

Confirmed Cases – 809,808 (4,615 new cases)

Active Cases – 78,720

Hospitalizations – 4,263 (11,460 available beds, 959 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 16,812 (95 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 716,015

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Wednesday, October 14th  was 8.04%.  One month ago, there were 4,816 new cases reported, one week ago there were 3,650 new cases reported, compared to the 4,615 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has increased by 670 cases.  The 4,263 COVID patients in hospitals now are 707 more than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 6.5% of total hospital beds in the state.

Huge Early Voting Turnout 

Early voting started on Tuesday with huge numbers being reported throughout the state.  Thursday was the third day of early voting, and there has been no slowdown in the number of voters going to the polls and mailing in their ballots.  Some numbers are incomplete as of now, but the Secretary of State estimates that through Wednesday, 1.75 million people had already cast their vote.  In Harris County, approximately 100,000 people cast votes for the third day in a row.  At this pace, it is possible that nearly 2.5 million people will have cast a vote by the end of the day on Thursday, which represents nearly 15% of all registered voters.

A closer look at who is voting shows that 9 out of every 10 voters that have already cast a vote have at least some previous voting history.  Of that group, in the state’s largest 30 counties, 34% have voted in the Democratic primary, 30% in the Republican primary, and 22% had only voted in the general elections.  These numbers do not include those voters that have sent their ballot in by mail.  Therefore, what we are seeing now is that most people that are physically going to the polls, are simply voters going earlier than usual.  The numbers will change as mail ballots are analyzed.

Rise in Hospitalizations and Infections Raise Concerns

With 4,616 new infections reported by the state on Thursday, the 7 day rolling average of infections is nearing 4,000.  Furthermore, the positivity rate has risen to slightly more than 8%, compared to 6.8% on October 1st.  Hospitalizations have been slowly rising as well.  The number of COVID patients in hospitals surpassed 4,000 on Wednesday for the first time since September 3rd.  El Paso is the hardest hit region of the state in this regard, where slightly more than 15% of all hospital beds are occupied by COVID patients.

These increases are slow, but do raise concern for health officials due to the fact that we are now headed into the flu season, which on its own can cause patients to be hospitalized. The slow rise of infections come as businesses have been allowed to loosen restrictions, but also as the population grows increasingly fatigued with pandemic, and begin to slowly try and regain a normal life routine.  Governor Abbott and other state health officials have asked Texans to continue to be diligent and responsible in their daily activities, and that we all must remain flexible to respond to any rise in the spread of infections.

Fort Worth Cancels Stock Show

At a time when the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex is hosting Major League Baseball playoff games, Dallas Cowboys games, and a NACAR races – all with a limited number of fans – the famous Fort Worth Stock Show announced yesterday that it canceling the 2021 event.  The event was scheduled to run from January 15th to February 6th, and brings in an estimated $100 million to the local economy each year.  Competitors, exhibitors, and attendees make up an average daily attendance of over 140,000 people, and the show’s executive committee saw those numbers as a significant risk for spread of the virus.

As we move into 2021 with no believeable or realistic timetable for a treatment of vaccine for the virus, we may begin to see more cancellations of events, if no progess is made on how to deal with the pandemic.  The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which sees which brings in an estimated $391 million dollars in economic activity to the greater Houston area, is scheduled to run from March 2nd to March 21st in 2021.  The 2020 event was canceled due to virus concerns five days into the event.  A study on the impact of the event on the Houston economy shows the event, in 2019, had a total attendance of 2.5 million people, created 3,700 direct jobs and was responsible for another 6,000 jobs in the region, and generated $28 million in educational scholarships and assistance for the youth that exhibitied in the show.

The South by Southwest Festival in Austin, which generates $356 million in economic impact to the Austin area, was also canceled in 2020.  The festival has only commited to a virtual conference for 2021 in March, and said they hope to announce plans for an in person event, pending a review of the facts and figures surrounding the pandemic.

Hegar Doubles Cornyn’s Fundraising Numbers

In the ever tightening race for US Senate, Democrat MJ Hegar raised $14.7 million in the 3rd quarter of this year, compared to $7.2 million for incumbent Republican John Cornyn.  She now has a cash on hand advantage as well, with $8.5 million compared to $8 million for Cornyn.  In addition to her campaign cash, the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic super Political Action Committee that is involved in US Senate races throughout the country, announced on Thursday that it will make an $8.6 million TV ad buy supporting Hegar.  The ads will air in both English and Spanish, and will focus on health care and Cornyn’s continued opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Until now, Cornyn had maintained a significant cash advantage over Hegar.  But, the latest shift in fundraising numbers for Hegar could signal a shift in the race.  The respected Cook Political Report, recently moved the Texas Senate race from “Likely” Republican to “Lean” Republican, an additional indication that the race is growing increasingly more competitive.  

There are 18 days unitl the November 3rd election and 88 days to the start of the Texas legsislative session.