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Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last week banning state agencies, cities or counties from creating a “vaccine passport” requirement.
In addition, organizations that receive public funds are prohibited from requiring consumers to prove they have received the COVID-19 vaccine. That includes businesses that receive money from the state in return for providing goods and services.
However, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities can still require that their residents are vaccinated under his order.
“Every day, Texans are returning to normal life as more people get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. But, as I’ve said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said.
Vaccines continue steady rise across state
As of Sunday, just more than 9 million Texans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 5.46 million are fully vaccinated, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. DSHS urges those who have not been vaccinated to go to the state’s Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler, which can be found at getthevaccine.dshs.texas.gov.
Meanwhile, the state’s weekly shipment of COVID-19 vaccines dropped this week after a manufacturing error in a Baltimore plant ruined a 15-million batch of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Last week, the state received 2.5 million doses from the three manufacturers, an amount that dropped to 1.9 million this week, as J&J plays catchup. The company has pledged to deliver 100 million doses nationwide by the end of May, according to an NPR report. J&J reduced its Texas allocation this week by about 350,000.
COVID-19 cases rise, but deaths drop
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Texas rose to 24,333 last week, up more than 2,500 from the previous week, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The number of deaths decreased to 512, down nearly 20 percent from the previous week.
At its peak in January, the state recorded more than four-fold the number of deaths with 2,311 recorded in a single week. At this point, nearly 50,000 Texans have died from COVID-19.
The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized stayed steady at 2,804, according to DSHS.
Contempt order against salon owner tossed out
The Texas State Supreme Court on Friday threw out a contempt order against a Dallas salon owner who refused to close last year when all non-essential businesses were ordered.
Shelley Luther tore up a cease-and-desist order from Dallas County and was fined $7,000 and sentenced to a week in jail. The high court ruled unanimously that the restraining order was too vague, and that the contempt of court decree issued by a district judge should be voided as well.
Luther’s defiance sparked national coverage, prompting Abbott to reverse part of his order that called for jail time for business owners who did not shut down last year after the pandemic outbreak.
Luther ran as a Republican for state Senate last year, losing in a December runoff to Drew Springer, R-Muenster.
Paxton drawing potential high-profile opponents
Two candidates with famous surnames are planning to run against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in 2022, according to several media outlets.
Paxton, under indictment since 2015 on securities fraud charges, is also battling a whistleblower lawsuit filed by former employees accusing him of bribery and improper dealings with an Austin investor. He denies wrongdoing in both cases.
Democrat Joe Jaworski, a former Galveston mayor and a grandson of Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski, announced his plans to run last summer. And last week, George P. Bush, state land commissioner and grandson of President George H.W. Bush, told a talk-radio host that he is considering challenging Paxton next year in the Republican primary.
Paxton has indicated he will run for a third term.
Abbott demands shutdown of San Antonio minor facility
The governor’s latest salvo against the federally run unaccompanied minor facilities included a letter to Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been tapped to head the effort dealing with a large influx of unaccompanied minors seeking entrance into the United States.
Abbott’s letter demanded the Biden administration shut down a facility in San Antonio under investigation by the state for allegations of child abuse and neglect.
“The Biden administration opened the borders and failed to plan for the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border, and now we are faced with our worst fears—allegations of child abuse and neglect,” Abbott said.
To date, there has been no direct response from Harris.
Soon, more Texans will have to dial 10 digits to make local calls
Folks living in the Panhandle, El Paso area, South Texas, and Deep East Texas will soon have to join the majority of Texans and use all 10 digits when making local calls.
Last summer, the Federal Communications Commission approved “988” as the abbreviated dialing number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. In Texas, the 254, 361, 409, 806, 830, 915 and 940 area codes all contain the 988 prefix.
A “permissive dialing period” begins April 24, during which seven-digit calls will still go through. But after Oct. 24, in those area codes, only calls dialed with 10 digits will be connected.