Case Counts/Testing in Texas   Wednesday, Sept 16th  (4:30 PM data)

Total Tests Performed — 5,729,318

Confirmed Cases — 674,772 (3,409 new cases)

Active Cases —69,457

Hospitalizations — 3,249 (11,902 available beds, 1,235 available ICU beds)

Fatalities — 14,478 (135 new deaths)

Recovered Cases — 590,837

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Tuesday, Sept 15th was 7.83%.  One month ago, there were 8,245 new cases reported, one week ago there were 4,285 new cases reported, compared to the 3,409 reported yesterday.  The 3,249 COVID patients in hospitals now are 355 less than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 5.5% of total hospital beds in the state.

State Leaders Provide Update

Today at the Capitol, Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick and outgoing House Speaker Dennis Bonnen provided an update on the state response to the pandemic, including the loosening of some of the economic restrictions that have been in place for several months.  This was the first press conference at the Capitol regarding the restrictions since June. 

Abbott announced that most of the areas of the state will be able to loosen restrictions, including allowing businesses to increase their capacity to 75% starting on Monday.  The new standards will apply to any area of the state where COVID patients make up less than 15% of all hospitalizations.  In these areas, businesses such as restaurants, retail stores, and office buildings will be able to operate at 75% capacity.  The only regions of the state where the new standards do not apply due to their percentage of hospitalized COVID patients – the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, and Victoria – will continue to operate all businesses at 50% capacity. 

Even with the new standards in place, Abbott said the state still will not authorize the opening of bars, claiming that such establishments are recognized in Texas and nationally as locations that spread the disease.  He said the state will continue to look for ways to reopen bars in a safe manner.

Early Voting Underway in Senate District 30 Special Election

In the special election set for September 29th to replace outgoing state Senator Pat Fallon, early voting has gotten off to a very slow start.  Fallon (R, Denton) was recently selected to replace John Ratcliff (R, Heath) in the east and north Texas Congressional seat that Ratcliff vacated to become the Director of National Security.  Fallon will assuredly be elected in November in the overwhelmingly Republican district, so a special election has been called to hopefully have Fallon’s replacement in place when the Texas legislature convenes in January.  SD 30 runs from Wichita Falls, down to Weatherford, and then over to communities east of Dallas.  The special election has 5 candidates, all running  on the Republican side.  The two top contenders are current state Rep. Drew Springer from the Denton area and Shelly Luther, the Dallas hair salon owner and activist who defied Gov. Abbott’s orders and opened her salon.

On Monday, the first day of early voting, only 2,400 people voted early.  Texas Senate districts have approximately 900,000 residents in each of the 31 districts.  This begs many questions about voter apathy and enthusiasm going into the November elections.  Early voting in this race runs through September 25th.  Early voting for the November election begins on October 13th.

Gov. Abbott’s Approval Among Lowest in the Nation

The COVID 19 Consortium, which is a joint project between Harvard, Rutgers University, and Northwestern University, recently issued a report summarizing the approval ratings of all 50 Governors regarding their response to the pandemic.  Gov. Abbott was one of only 12 Governors that has an approval rating of below 40%, according to the report.  The approval ratings of all Governors have declined substantially during the pandemic, from an average of 63% in April to 48% in August.  Governor Abbott’s approval rating now stands at 35%, down from a high of 61% in April. 

Cornyn, Hegar Agree to Debates

Three term Republican incumbent US Senator John Cornyn and Democrat MJ Hegar are locked in a tight race to see who represents Texas in the US Senate.  Cornyn, who has easily won reelection twice before, is admittedly in his toughest challenge to date.  Most polls show him leading Hegar, but by single digits.  And, most polls show Cornyn coming in at less than 50%, which is never good for a multi term incumbent.    The two candidates have agreed to their first debate, which will be held on October 9th in Austin at the Bob Bullock State History Museum.  The debate will be carried live online and by 15 TV stations owned by Nexstar throughout the state.  Two other debates will occur – one in Dallas hosted by WFAA TV and one hosted by Spectrum News.  Dates and other details will be announced for the final two debates.

Final Say on Harris County Mail in Voting??

In the continuing battle over mail in voting ballots in Harris County, the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked Harris County officials from sending mail in ballots to all of its 2.4 million registered voters.  The state Attorney General had made the request for the county to stop their plans to send out the ballots.  This is the second time the state Supreme Court has issued an order to the county to not send out mail in voting applications to all registered voters.

There are now 47 days until the November 3rd election and 116 days until the start of the Texas legislative session.