Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Thursday, October 22nd  (4:10 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 8,245,551

Confirmed Cases – 845,100  (5,917 new cases)

Active Cases – 85,618

Hospitalizations – 4,931 (11,433 available beds, 939 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 17,286 (85 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 744,283

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Wednesday, October 21st  was 8.85%.  One month ago, there were 3,964 new cases reported, one week ago there were 4,615 new cases reported, compared to the 5,917 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has increased by 682 cases.  The 4,931 COVID patients in hospitals now are 668 more than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 7.5% of total hospital beds in the state.

Early Voting Continues

The latest early voting figures from Wednesday show that nearly 6 million Texans have already cast their vote.  That translates to 34.7% of all registered voters in the state.  This surpasses the entire early vote period total from 2018, when 5.99 milliion voters voted early.  By week’s end, the total number of early voters is expected to surpass the previous early voting record of 6.65 million, which occurred in the 2016 presidential election.

All of the 15 largest counties in the state are continuing to experience record turnout so far.  The biggest increases over 2016 have occurred in the counties of Denton (north Texas), Cameron (Rio Grande Valley), Williamson (north of Austin), Collin (north of Dallas), and El Paso.  All of these counties are either strong Democratic or have been trending Democratic in the past 2 elections.  Denton Co. elected its first Democrat to the state House in 2018, Williamson Co. had 2 state House seats flip to Democrat in 2016 and 2018, and Collin Co. was once a Republican stronghold that is now considered a battleground region.

New Poll Numbers

Morning Consult released a poll yesterday afternoon that shows Joe Biden leading President Trump by one point, 48% to 47% in the state.  That is within the poll’s margin of error.  A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday evening had the two tied at 47%. 

In the race for US Senate, the Quinnipiac poll showed incument US Senator John Cornyn leading Democrat MJ Hegar by 6 points, 49% to 43%.  The Morning Consult poll showed a little closer race, with Cornyn leading 46% to 41%.  In the analysis of the Morning Consult poll, credit for Hegar’s most recent surge is fueled by an influx of cash over the past several weeks that has allowed her to increase her outreach to more indendent and minority voters.  

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted from October 16th to 19th among 1,145 likely Texas voters, and has a margin of error of 2.9%. The Morning Consult poll was conducted from October 11th to 20th among 788 likely Texas voters and has a margin of error of 3%.  

Drive Thru Voting Allowed in Harris County

In the state’s most populous county, where record numbers of voters have already cast their ballots, the Texas Republican Party filed suit last week to challenge the practice of drive thru voting.  In an effort to expand access to voting during the pandemic, Harris County announced in June that it would set up 10 locations throughout the county that would allow voters to stay in their vehicles while voting.  They are given a portable machine by poll workers to cast their ballots. As of Wednesday, more than 73,000 people in the county had taken advantage of drive thru voting.

The party’s lawsuit filed last week, hours before early voting was set to begin, claimed that drive thru voting should only be available to voters with disabilities.  The Texas Supreme Court disagreed last night, saying the lawsuit was filed too late, and to alter the procedures already in place would add to voter confusion.  Harris County officials will continue the practice and are seeking assurances from the Secretary of State that all drive thru ballots will be counted.  As of Wednesday, 876,990 people had cast their vote in Harris County, which represents 35.36% of all registered voters in the county.

State Sending Emergency Resources to Areas of State Experiencing Surges

Some areas of the state are experiencing surges in infections, and there are predictions that some parts of the state could run out of ICU beds in the coming weeks. A report by the Unviversity of Texas released yesterday states that the El Paso region could run out of hospital beds by November 8th if the infection rate continues to climb there.  Other regions of the state are also seeing an increase in infections and are being closely monitored by state health officials.  Amarillo, Lubbock, Wichita Falls, Galveston, and San Angelo have seen spikes in infections and have an increasing chance of seeing their health care systems stressed by patients. 

El Paso is the hardest hit right now.  The county reported 1,161 new cases on Thursday, which is 20% of the entire new cases reported in the state.  The county also reported 571 people hospitalized with COVID, including 159 in ICU beds.  The state is deploying 500 medical personnel and more than 100 pieces of medical equipment including ambulances, monitors, beds, and other medical supples to help officials in the region.  It is also expected that officials will begin to use Fort Bliss Army base in El Paso, which includes a medical center to assist with patient care needs.  

There are 11 days unitl the November 3rd election and 81 days to the start of the Texas legsislative session.