Case Counts/Testing in Texas   Sunday, Sept 20th  (2:50 PM data)

Total Tests Performed — 6,042,747

Confirmed Cases — 688,534 (2,241 new cases)

Active Cases —64,431

Hospitalizations — 3,081 (12,563 available beds, 1,322 available ICU beds)

Fatalities — 14,893 (45 new deaths)

Recovered Cases — 609,210

Inside the Numbers

Positivity rate as of Saturday, Sept 19th was 6.77%.  One month ago, there were 6,474 new cases reported, one week ago there were 3,905 new cases reported, compared to the 2,241 reported yesterday.  The 3,081 COVID patients in hospitals now are 238 less than one week ago, and COVID patients make up 5.3% of total hospital beds in the state.

Beta Nears Landfall

Tropical Storm Beta has already begun to affect the southeast Texas coast with a storm surge and heavy rains.  The system is expected to be a prolonged rain event for areas all along and near the coast, from Corpus Christ to the Louisiana border.  Areas along the coast from Matagorda Bay to Galveston are already experiencing flooding in low lying areas.  The worst part of the rain will be from Monday evening through sometime Wednesday, with as much as 6-10 inches of rainfall in some parts of the southeast region of the state.  Most local officials expect the flooding to be manageable, since the rainfall will not occur all at once, but rather in waves from the outer bands of the storm.  Coastal areas from Matagorda to Galveston will get the brunt of the system’s 60 mph wind gusts, while areas farther inland should only experience wind speeds of up to 40 mph.

Texas Senators Weigh in On Supreme Court Nominee

After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday night, the debate immediately began on the proper time to fill her vacancy.  The Democrats have said that the seat should not be filled until after the November election, when the country has selected its choice for President.  Republicans have said that the seat should be filled immediately, prior to the end of the year at the latest.  In 2016, upon the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Republicans argued that the seat should not be filled until the new President was elected and the Democrats wanted to fill the seat immediately, so roles are reversed four years later.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been adamant that the Senate should meet and confirm the President’s nominee prior to the election.  Cruz will play a leading role in the battle to try and get the Trump nominee confirmed to the Court, in a nomination battle that could shape the Court in the conservative’s favor for decades to come.  Cornyn has indicated through tweets that he is supportive of filling the vacancy this year.  Both Senators sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the eventual nominee will come before that committee to testify.  Since this appointee could shape the direction of the Court for many years, the battle will be epic, and will have a great affect on Cornyn’s reelection bid, as well as down ballot races for the control of the state House and the makeup of the Texas Congressional delegation.

Few Positive Cases as Classrooms Open

According to state data tracking the pandemic in public schools, 2,344 students and 2,175 staff members have tested positive for COVID since schools opened their doors last month.  The state estimates that there are approximately 1.1 million students back on campuses and 800,000 staff members who are on campuses throughout the state.  That means that 0.21% of students have tested positive and 0.27% of staff has tested positive.  This information is not broken down by district yet.  Public school districts in the state were required to begin reporting positive cases to the state on September 8th, and must continue to do so weekly.  Several school districts in the Austin area have created on line dashboards to make the reporting data available to the public.  Austin ISD will only release information in response to an open records request. 

Many school districts throughout the state began bringing some students back to campus as early as the last week of August, and will continue to phase in the number of students returning to campus.  Most school districts are also allowing students who choose to stay home and learn on line to do so for the remainder of the semester. 

August Unemployment Rate Drops to Lowest Level Since March

The US Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate for the state of Texas fell to 6.8% for the month of August, a sign of an improving, but still suffering economy.  This rate is down from 8% in July, and has shown a continued improvement since the government mandated shutdowns began in late March.  Before the pandemic caused the Governor to shut down most businesses in the state, the unemployment rate for Texas was 5.1%, and it saw a peak of 13.5% in April.  Texas added 33,200 in the private business and services sector in August, along with 28,800 in the transportation and utilities industries.  Government added an additional 25,000 jobs, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

There are now 43 days until the November 3rd election and 113 days until the start of the Texas legislative session.