Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Wednesday, October 6th (3:45 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 3,415,430 (10,120 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 7,474 (8,779 available beds, 469 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 65,433 (371 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Wednesday, October 6th (4:00 PM data)
Total doses administered – 31,805,267
People vaccinated – 17,373,156
People fully vaccinated – 14,987,165
Doses Shipped by state – 24,716,650
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Thursday, Wednesday, October 6th was 9.1%. One month ago, there were 19,200 new cases reported, one week ago there were 8,300 new cases reported, compared to the 10,120 reported yesterday. The 7,474 COVID patients in hospitals now is 1,782 less patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 12.2% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 56,935 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Wednesday, October 6th, 51.4% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Redistricting Plans Moving Forward
On Tuesday, the Texas Senate approved a new redistricting map for its members that will further strengthen and possible grow the partisan majority in the Senate. The proposal was passed by a 20-11 vote, with two south Texas Democrats voting in favor of the new maps. While the map will potentially add at least one and likely two more Republican seats, the new map does not have any additional districts where people of color represent a majority of the district, even though Black, Hispanic, and Asian Texans accounted for 95% of the population growth in the latest census numbers. The Senate plan, complete with data and maps, can be found here: https://data.capitol.texas.gov/dataset/70836384-f10c-423d-a36e-748d7e000872/resource/ce5aafdb-925f-48c5-ac81-2cd21453b60b/download/plans2168_map_report_package.pdf
The House Redistricting Committee approved their chamber’s new map on Tuesday as well. After a hearing of over 16 hours and nearly 125 witnesses, the committee voted to send the new plan to the floor along a party line vote. This proposal will also strengthen and grow the Republican majority in the lower chamber, with the likelihood of increasing the partisan majority from 83 to possibly 90 Republican seats in the 150 member House. The proposed new House map will be considered on the House floor on Tuesday, with a contentious debate likely to ensue. The House proposal can be found here: https://data.capitol.texas.gov/dataset/c8877717-9bd1-43a8-9094-f2b6ff67536e/resource/99c38b5d-0454-4cff-a93b-3c7d0eb640b8/download/planh2176_map_report_package.pdf
Senate Continues its Push on Election Bills
On Tuesday, the Senate continued to consider and pass legislation related to the elections process in the state, even though the Legislature has already passed an omnibus rewrite of the election code, and there has been no credible evidence of voter fraud from the 2020 election. The Senate yesterday passed legislation to increase the criminal penalties for illegal voting, and passed another bill that would call for a full scale audit of the 2020 election. The latter is not on the call of the special session, and has the potential of costing local counties millions of dollars.
House Speaker Dade Phelan has already publicly stated that he does not see the need to re-litigate the changes that were approved by both Houses and signed by the Governor in SB 1, the omnibus elections bill. However, former President Trump is putting the pressure on Gov. Abbott to open the call to the audit related legislation, requesting legislation that allow a full scale review of mail in and in person ballots across the state that were cast in the 2020 election.
Transgender Athletes Bill Heard in House Committee
For the fourth consecutive session this year, a bill is moving through the process that requires transgender students in public schools to compete on sports teams based on their gender at birth, not their identity. The bill has failed in the regular session and in the previous two special sessions. Gov. Abbott has again opened the call of this session to include this legislation. The bill has already passed the Texas Senate, and was heard in House committee yesterday. After several hours of public testimony that included over 100 witnesses, the committee approved the measure along a party line vote, sending it to the full House for consideration next week. The Speaker has indicated that he believes the full House has the necessary votes to pass the legislation.
Committees Meet to Allocate $16 Billion in Federal Aid
The House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee has begun hearings on each chamber’s proposal to spend approximately $16 billion in federal aid intended for COVID relief purposes. Each bill introduced has similar priorities, including $7 billion to restore the state’s unemployment compensation fund; $3 billion to assist hospitals with staffing surges experienced during the pandemic; $500 million to expand broadband access in rural areas that would in turn expand access to telemedince; and $100 million to assist state food banks. Initial hearings began yesterday, and the Senate Finance Committee will continue its hearings today. Both committee chairs have indicated that requests for the relief funds have far exceeded the available $16 billion, tenfold by some accounts.
Schools and Universities Reporting Fewer Cases
The number of newly reported COVID-19 cases in public school students appears to be trending down compared to the beginning of the academic year, state and local district data show. Other indicators, including falling pediatric hospitalizations and decreasing numbers of newly reported COVID infections in the overall state population, appear to support the downward movement among children. Natural immunity from previous infections, increasing vaccine rates and school mitigation measures are all behind the drop in cases, according to officials at Texas Children’s Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. There are roughly 30 children with COVID at Texas Children’s, down from a late-August peak of about 60. Harris County’s vaccine rate in the 10- to 19-year-old age group — which includes children who are not yet eligible for a vaccine — rose from 27.5 percent on Aug. 2 to 40 percent on Sept. 20, according to the latest data tracked by the Harris County Public Health Department.
University of Texas leaders are requiring most professors who opted to begin the semester teaching online or in a hybrid format to move classes back into classrooms at full capacity. UT officials allowed faculty members to temporarily reduce their classroom occupancy or request to move their classes online for the first few weeks of the school year as a pandemic safety precaution. About 14% of the faculty requested a temporary move online, while an unknown number chose to hold fewer in-person classes per week and offer additional hybrid options for students. University officials said they made the accommodations due to COVID-19 safety concerns and to give time for the prevalence of the virus to diminish in Austin and on campus.
The instructors who made the pandemic changes began the transition back on Sept. 20, with the goal of returning to the original format by Monday, although some faculty members with immunocompromised relatives in their household will be allowed to teach online for the semester. UT officials also began to increase the presence of staff members on campus at the same time, according to a campus wide message from university President Jay Hartzell. The end of UT’s transition, which has been planned for weeks, comes shortly after Austin Public Health announced Tuesday that the city is shifting from Stage 5 to Stage 4 of the COVID-19 risk-based guidelines. Virus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations have steadily declined in the city since a peak in August. Art Markman, head of UT’s academic working group for COVID-19 planning, said cases are following a similar trend on campus. He said the majority of the faculty are already teaching in person and at full capacity, and UT has not seen spread from classroom activities.
Abortion Law Temporarily Blocked
An Austin federal district judge has temporarily blocked the state’s new abortion law, SB 8 that was recently signed into law. The new law prohibits abortions as early as 6 weeks into the pregnancy, as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The law also does not allow for exceptions in the case of incest or rape. The ruling was in response to the Biden Administration’s lawsuit filed last month to declare the law invalid. The state immediately requested an emergency stay, and the case now heads to the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals where a ruling is expected in the coming days. In all likelihood, this the fate of this new law will ultimately be decided this fall by the US Supreme Court.
It’s the annual Texas/OU weekend, so many legislators are on their way to Dallas, but not just for the game. Many members will have fundraisers tonight and tomorrow night, which has been a longstanding practice as part of the weekend festivities. The House will meet briefly this morning, with nothing on their calendar. The House and Senate will then both return on Tuesday.