Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Wednesday, October 7th  (4:00 PM data)

Total Tests Performed – 7,232,430

Confirmed Cases – 777,556 (3,776 new cases)

Active Cases – 70,813

Hospitalizations – 3,519 (12,720 available beds, 1,216 available ICU beds)

Fatalities – 16,230 (119 new deaths)

Recovered Cases – 692,123

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Tuesday, October 6th  was 6.73%.  One month ago, there were 4,285 new cases reported, one week ago there were 3, 234 new cases reported, compared to the 3,776 reported yesterday.  The 7 day average has decreased by 134 cases.  The 3,519 COVID patients in hospitals now are 175 more than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 5.8% of total hospital beds in the state.

Bars Allowed to Reopen with Local Approval

In an announcement via Facebook video yesterday, Gov. Abbott said he had issued another Executive Order that will allow bars to reopen for in person service beginning October 14th, if the local county judge in which the bar is located allows it.  Bars must operate at no more than 50% capacity, and customers must be seated while eating and drinking.  In addition to allowing bars to open, the Order also allowed establishments that had been operating at 50% capacity to increase their capacity to 75%.  Business affected by this increase include bowling alleys, movie theaters, bingo halls and amusement parks.

The announcement was met with both relief and skepticism by bar owners throughout the state.  Many were happy to be allowed to reopen, but the complaints centered around the fact that Abbott is essentially passing the responsibility to local authorities.  Immediately after the announcement, the county judges in Harris, Dallas, and Bexar Counties said they will not immediately allow bars to open.  The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will be working with county officials to provide guidelines for reopening and enforcement.

More Court Rulings on Voting

In the continuing court battles over who, when, and how we are all going to vote this year, the Texas Supreme Court handed down two decisions yesterday. First, the court ruled that early voting will begin as scheduled next Tuesday, October 13th.  In July, Gov. Abbott issued an order that extended the early voting period – normally the two weeks before the general election day – by 6 days, citing the extension as a pandemic safety measure.  Several Republican officials in the state, including the state Republican Party Chairman and Commissioner of Agriculture, had sued Abbott saying he lacked the authority to issue the order.  The Supreme Court sided with Abbott and will allow early voting to proceed starting next Tuesday.

In another decision, for the second time, the court blocked Harris County from sending a mail in ballot to every one of the 2.4 million registered voters in Harris County.  The Harris County Clerk had been seeking options to expand voting options due to the pandemic, and the state had sued to stop the county from mailing out the applications.  The court sided with the state once again, claiming that the applications are easily accessible on line and are allowed to be distributed by each political party, campaigns, and other private organizations.

Biden Campaign Makes Huge TV Buy

As many polls show a very close race in Texas between Democrat Joe Biden and President Trump, the Biden campaign announced yesterday that it has made a $6 million media buy for television commercials to air between now and election day.  The buys are for air time in the state’s leading media markets, and will include Spanish language ads in Dallas, Houston, El Paso, and Laredo.  

No Democratic Presidential candidate has carried the state of Texas since 1976, but this investment shows that the Biden campaign believes the state is in play.  A poll released yesterday from Civiqs, and on line polling and data company, shows Biden and Trump tied at 48%.  The same poll showed Democrat MJ Hegar closing the gap on incumbent US Senator John Cornyn.  The poll shows Cornyn lead has dropped to only 1 percentage point, standing at 47% to 46%.  

More State Campaign News

All state campaigns must release fundraising numbers 30 days prior to the general election date.  The most recent reports from candidates for the state House of Representatives show the Democrats outraising their Republican opponents during the last reporting period, but the Republican incumbents still maintaining an “on hand” cash advantage.  Partisan control of the Texas House is being watched not only in Texas, but also at the national level.  Republicans currently hold an 83-67 partisan advantage, meaning Democrats would have to “flip” 9 seats to gain a majority, something they have not had since 2002.  

There are roughly 30 seats in play that are being closely watched that will eventually determine the control of the House. Most of the seats are in the suburban areas of Houston and Dallas, with a few seats in the Austin/San Antonio area in play as well. During the most recent fundraising reporting period which ran from July to September 24th, Democrats raised a combined $6.7 million, compared to $5.3 million for Republican House candidates.  However, the Republicans held a cash on hand advantage.  Republicans report $9.9 million while their Democratic opponents report having $6.2 million.   

State Issues Guidance on Vaccines

The Texas Department of State Health Services published guidelines yesterday regarding access to a vaccine in the state once a viable vaccine becomes available.  In a signal of optimism about a vaccines forthcoming in the near future, the Department said that health care workers, essential workers, those 65 and over, and anyone who is at an increased risk of illness due to an underlying condition will have first access to a vaccine when available.  Health care professionals must also agree to administer the vaccine to patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Not many specifics were given on the definitions of essential workers or what was deemed an underlying conditions.  But, guidelines for distribution to critical populations included nursing home residents, teachers and professors, members of racial minority groups, including Tribal communities, rural Texans, and people with disabilities.  The Department said that while they are aware of the fact that vaccines are still in the clinical trial period, they are taking a proactive approach to ensure the vaccine is distributed as quickly as possible once it is available.