The 87th session of the Texas State Legislature begins today. Social distancing, mask wearing, and COVID testing are expected to play a big role. The final rules of the meeting are only set after the hammering.
“That will limit the work, and the lieutenant governor will limit the number of bills he sends to the committees,” says Senator John Whitmire.
He expects the Senate to adjourn for a few weeks to allow vaccinations. Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, says there are only big problems in this session.
“Reallocate the budget, if possible. Some major high priority reform issues related to the George Floyd Act, ”says Jones
For the first time in a while, Travis County has seen a pretty big drop in its total hospitalized COVID patient numbers. Today there are 564 and while that number is still very high it is 22 to less than a day ago. Another positive result for today is 5,795 active cases. That is 249 less than a day ago. Nearly 50,500 people have recovered from a total of 56,825 cases found since March.
Austin is getting a bit of extra help as the city continues to support the Austin Convention Center as an alternative care facility.
“We’re making progress by putting the alternative care facility in the convention center. The state provides us with staff for what we are very grateful for, ”says Mayor Adler.
Mayor Steve Adler says the convention center will be used for less serious COVID cases, and he hopes it will take the pressure off local hospitals. It is expected to be ready for patients by the end of this week.
COVID and school districts
After the snow caused the Austin School District to educate virtually all children yesterday. Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde is now asking as many students as possible to stay home all week.
“Especially in the next four days. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday which would give us the 10 day window that Doctor Escott thinks is really helpful, ”says Elizalde.
Exceptions are made for students with parents who cannot start work from home or for students with special needs. Buses equipped with WiFi are also available to students who need internet access.
Starting tomorrow, the Del Valle district will put all classes in a virtual environment. The 100% correspondence courses will be conducted through Friday and the district will meet with health officials on Friday to see how the courses will be conducted for the next week.
Vaccines are distributed
Governor Greg Abbott briefs on vaccines following his tour of a vaccination center in Arlington this week. He says approximately 1.8 million cans have been distributed, with more than 700,000 others ready to be dispensed.
“Texas has also made 487,500 doses available for nursing and long-term care centers,” Abbott says.
States should receive 310,000 doses every week this month, and Abbott anticipates that number will increase over time.
HEB now has an online registration portal for COVID vaccines. Officials say pharmacies will accept appointments once vaccine supplies are replenished. As soon as it is available again, people can register in phase 1A and 1B. HEB branches have only received around 100 cans per shipment so far.
Strong mayor system proposed
A new grassroots group is formed in Austin to oppose a petition that would give the mayor’s office more power. Some self-proclaimed progressives are pushing for the city’s government to be transformed into a strong system of mayors. But Austin for All People’s Catherine Moore group says they won’t be advocating it.
“There are serious problems we have to solve in Austin, but our group believes that 10-1 is the best way for us to address Austin’s current and future problems,” said Moore.
Proponents of the strong mayoral proposals say it is promoting democracy. Moore wonders what is so democratically progressive about the consolidation of power?
New prosecutor makes moves
José Garza has only been the Travis County District Attorney for a few days. He has already charged an Austin Cop officer, Lando Hall. He was charged with misusing official information, but details of the charges are not known. Hall was admitted to the county jail last week and released the same day, but he could spend a decade in jail on those charges.