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Sep 03

September 3, 2020 TML Coronavirus Update #115

Posted on September 3, 2020 at 3:21 PM by TML Staff

Urgent Updates


What’s the latest news relating to the positivity rate for Texas?


According to the Texas Department of State Health Services COVID-19 dashboard, the state’s seven-day average positivity rate is 9.64 percent: 

On August 31, the governor tweeted the following:


“I said last month that Texas wouldn’t have any more lockdowns—despite demands from mayors & county judges insisting on lockdowns. Since my last orders in July, COVID numbers have declined—most importantly hospitalizations. I hope to provide updates next week about next steps.”


We assume that the governor will wait until after Labor Day holiday and announce future plans. Feeling positively positive about the decline in the positivity rate, we are almost positive there won’t be an update tomorrow, unless someone posits something that can’t wait. 


Enjoy the long weekend safely everyone!


What did the big city mayors talk about at The Texas Tribune Festival?


Evan Smith of The Texas Tribune interviewed the mayors of Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso to kick off the start of the virtual “Texas Tribune Festival.” The panel focused on major issues including the pandemic, the economy, and each city’s budget outlook. 


The mayors emphasized their collaborative efforts against the coronavirus since the beginning, including weekly calls and implementing a mask mandate in their cities before the statewide mandate. Stressing local control, the mayors discussed how they have the expertise on the local economy, demographics, and COVID-19 cases, among other factors, in their cities. 


Budget issues were front and center. While facing major shortfalls this budget cycle, most were able to avoid layoffs and furloughs. Budget woes are different for each city, but the loss from hotel occupancy taxes are felt in all of the largest cities. The cancellation of major events and festivals will be devastating as some businesses will be shuttered. 


Each mayor talked about the financial challenges their city is facing. San Antonio is dealing with a $100 million shortfall, even as the city halted certain expenses mid-year. Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston talked about his concern for future budgets after taking a $162 million hit. Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth echoed his concern, saying that cities will be facing budget challenges for the next three-to-four years. Fort Worth has had a loss of $20 million in sales tax revenue, but they remain optimistic as sales taxes continue to increase. Austin is addressing a $60-$80 million deficit. El Paso has already adopted its budget, with a reduction of $24 million from the previous year. 


The panel is available to watch on demand for festival attendees.


What’s the latest with regard to mail-in ballots in Harris County?


According to The Texas Tribune, the Texas Supreme Court has temporarily blocked Harris County from sending mail-in ballot applications to all of its voters for the November election.


“The decision Wednesday came in response to a lawsuit filed days ago by Republicans in the state’s largest county. Attorney General Ken Paxton has since launched his own legal challenge to the plan.


Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins announced last month that the county would send applications to its more than 2.4 million registered voters, an effort to make it easier to participate in the election during the coronavirus pandemic. After being sued by Paxton, Hollins said he would only send applications to voters 65 and older, who are eligible to vote by mail under state law, pending the litigation. A spokesperson said Wednesday that those plans haven't changed.


In June, ahead of the July primary runoff, Hollins’ office sent out roughly 380,000 mail-in ballot applications to voters over 65, a spokesperson said. This time, it will send around 295,000.”


Further Updates


Where can I access a summary of the key topics you’ve covered in these Updates?


TML staff launched these Coronavirus Updates in mid-March when our cities started feeling the effects of COVID-19. Since then, we’ve produced more than 350 pages of archived information.


We know it’s hard to digest it all, so we’re offering a comprehensive update at the TML Virtual Annual Conference and Exhibition on October 14 at 1:30 p.m. Scott Houston, TML Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel, will lead the discussion, and will be joined by Assistant General Counsels Christy Drake-Adams, Amber McKeon-Mueller, and Evelyn Njuguna. Register here to listen in on this update, and view more than 30 other conference sessions, most of which are related to disaster recovery and resilience.


Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus Updates?


TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.