Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, October 19th  (4:15 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 8,078,858

Confirmed Cases – 828,527 (2,273 new cases)

Active Cases – 82,930

Hospitalizations – 4,319 (13,289 available beds, 1,128 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 17,022 (8 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 729,762

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Sunday, October 18th  was 8.1%.  One month ago, there were 3,433 new cases reported, one week ago there were 2,384 new cases reported, compared to the 2,373 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has increased by 862 cases.  The 4,319 COVID patients in hospitals now are 449 more than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 6.9% of total hospital beds in the state.

Early Voting Continues, Who is Voting So Far? 

Early voting continues until Friday, October 30th. Through Sunday, the 6th day of early voting, Texas is leading the country in the number of votes cast, with more than 4 million people already casting their vote in person or through mail in balloting.  That number represents about 45% of the total number of votes cast in 2016.  During the 2016 Presidential election, a total of 9 million votes were cast in Texas.  In the 15 most populous counties, 2.8 million people have already voted during the first 6 days.  It took 8 days to reach that number in 2016 and 2018, and 11 days to reach that number in 2012.

Who is voting so far?  According to a report done by Ryan Data and Research, a respected data analysis firm based in Austin, Republicans and Democrats have voted in fairly equal numbers.  In regard to the history of those who have already voted, 30.5% have recent history of voting in a Republican primary, and 29.7% have voted in a recent Democratic primary.  

But, with that said, there is a much more important number to watch.  In the 30 largest counties in the state, 35.7% of the voters that have already voted have no recent history of voting in primary elections.  Furthermore, 11% have no voting history at all, primary or general.  Those are huge numbers of either new voters or voters that have not participated in the last several election cycles that have finally been motivated to vote.

Race for Texas House See Huge Investment from Both Parties

Forward Majority, the Democratic national Super PAC that has already committed to spend at least $6 million, says it will double its investment to $12 million in the partisan fight for control of the Texas House of Representatives.  Democrats need to flip only 9 seats in the 150 member House to regain control.  Forward Majority says it will increase its investment in targeting districts – mostly in suburban areas of Houston and Dallas – with TV and mail pieces.  

To counter that, the Republican State Leadership Committee, a group founded by the national GOP to focus on state level legislative races, claims they have raised $6.2 million since July 1st to try and protect the Republican majority in the state House.  The increased spending shows just how fierce the battle for partisan control of the Texas House has become.  The party with the majority in January will have control of the Speaker’s office and the redistricting process of 2021, which will draw state House, Senate and US Congressional seats to be in effect for the next 10 years.

State Gives Update on Vaccine Distribution

On Monday afternoon, the state Department of Health Services provided an update and overview of their continued preparations for distribution of a vaccine, when it becomes available.  The biggest questions still facing the state are when a vaccine or vaccines will arrive, which or how many vaccines will arrive, and how many doses the state will be given for distribution.  

According to the Department, as of now, there are six COVID vaccines that are in the final stages of testing, with each one having different dosage and storage requirements.  The Pfizer and Moderana vaccines need to be frozen while in storage, and the Novavax vaccine is intended only for those aged 18 and over.  Most of the vaccines will require two shots at least 21 days apart.  Health care providers are asked to start signing up now on the state’s immunization registry, and each provider must be willing to track every dose of the vaccine.  The Department expects the state to start getting at least some doses of the vaccine in December, with those going directly to health care providers.  This first round of doses will also go to the most vulnerable populations such as those in long term care facilities, which have shown to be vulnerable to outbreaks.

Starting in January, vaccinations will be expanded to what the Department has defined as critical populations.  This would include essential workers, the elderly, anyone with an underlying medical condition, and racial minorities.  The Department estimates, at this time, they do not believe that supplies of the vaccine will be sufficient to dose the entire population until July of 2021.  

Air Travel Reaches a Milestone

Finally some good news. The number of passengers screened by the Transportation Safety Administration in a single day throughout the country topped one million for the first time since March. This milestone was reached on Sunday, and signifies progress for the airline industry that has been devastated by the pandemic. The low point was in April of this year, when fewer than 100,000 people were screened per day. Even though the one million passengers screened doesn’t favorably compare with the 2.6 million screened on the same day of 2019, the airline industry sees reason for hope. The 6.1 million people that were screened for the week of October 12th through the 18th was the greatest volume measured since the start of the pandemic.  

Airlines collectively received over $50 billion in cash and loans in the fist COVID relief bill passed by Congress earlier this year, in exchange for a commitment to hold off on layoffs until October.  With the money and timetable for conditions running out, the industry is warning of massive layoffs if Congress does not act soon.  The companies are asking for an additional $25 billion so they can pay their employees for the next six months.

There are 14 days until the November 3rd election and 84 days to the start of the Texas legislative session.