Case Counts/Testing in Texas — As of June 9th (3:50PM data)
Total Tests Performed — 1,302,049

Confirmed Cases — 77,253

Active Cases — 24,260

Hospitalizations — 2,056

Fatalities — 1,853

Recovered Cases — 51,140


Asymptomatic Spread??

On Monday, the technical lead for World Health Organization coronavirus response issued a statement saying that it was “very rare” for asymptomatic people to spread the Covid 19 disease.  Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said that the organization had been looking at countries performing very detailed contact tracing, following asymptomatic cases and found that asymptomatic individuals rarely transmit the disease.  However, on Tuesday, after receiving significant pushback from other public health officials, she clarified her comments.  Dr. Van Kerkhove now says she meant to say that the actual rates of asymptomatic transmission are not fully known.  She did go on to say that what is known is that the majority of the transmission of the disease is from people with the active symptoms.

State to Increase Testing in Underserved and Minority Communities

On Monday afternoon, the state’s Division of Emergency Management announced that it will now coordinate with local health officials to identify and rapidly expand Covid 19 testing in underserved and minority communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.  DEM officials will be working with local officials in the state’s largest cities, as well as rural areas and the Rio Grande Valley to establish more walk up and drive thru testing sites.  A link to the state’s testing sites can be found here:  https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=8bf7c6a436a64bfe9a5ce25be580e4ff&extent=-11921430.6694%2C2971608.7338%2C-10335209.4584%2C3926765.8392%2C102100

George Floyd Laid to Rest in Houston

Hundreds of people gathered at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston yesterday for the memorial for George Floyd, the man whose death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police has ignited a nationwide protest movement for a change in policing in America.  Several locally elected officials and celebrities joined the ceremony, and former Vice-President Joe Biden joined in virtually for the nearly four hour service.  Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, along with several of Mr. Floyd’s family members addressed the mourners in an emotional ceremony.  At the service, Mayor Turner declared his intention to sign an executive order that will ban chokeholds and strangleholds by police, and require them to give warnings before discharging their weapons.  Mr. Floyd was then escorted in a horse drawn carriage to his final resting place in Pearland to be buried next to his mother.


Economy News

The National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, non profit research group based in Boston, declared this week that the US is in a four month long economic recession.  The designation is certainly not a surprise and is due to the severe decline in employment and production in the US.  GDP fell 5% in the first quarter of the year and projections show a 20% decrease in the April to June period.  This is on top of an unemployment rate that has gone from 3.5% in February to 14.7% in April.  The group projects that growth will recover, but point out that since World War II, the nation’s recessions have lasted anywhere from six to 18 months.  
These numbers are being experienced locally as well.  In Austin for example, economic activity decreased by 77% in April of 2020 as compared to April of 2019.  April was the first full month of the pandemic’s impact on the economy.  Furthermore, the Austin Airport had 17 million passengers pass through the gates in 2019, an average of 1.4 million per month.  In April of this year, a total of 47,781 passengers passed through the Austin Airport, a 96% decline from the 1.46 million that passed through in April of 2019.  


More Revenue Needed

With the state budget expected to be in a deficit of nearly $30 billion, some state lawmakers are now floating new ideas for new revenue streams for the state.  Yesterday, Rep. Dustin Burrows the Republican Chairman of the tax writing Ways and Means committee suggested the idea of legalization of marijuana as one possible source of new revenue.  This proposal would certainly not be a cure all for a $30 billion deficit.  Burrows said that this was just one idea and that the state should consider any and all ideas for new revenue to help the state deal with the large budget deficit.  In the past during difficult budget situations, several ideas have arisen, such as expanded gaming, raising the sales tax, taxes on professional services, junk food taxes, and increased taxes on “sin” products such as alcohol and tobacco.