The Dallas Examiner
The surge in COVID-19 cases, the future of voting rights in Texas, an overview of the 87th legislative session and rental assistance relief for Texans were the topics highlighted Aug. 7 during No Eggs, Just Issues virtual town hall meeting hosted by State Sen. Royce West of District 23.
Dr. Philip Huang, director of the Dallas County Health and Human Services, and State Rep. Jasmine Crockett of District 100, were the featured guest.
“The voting rights issues have captured the attention of the entire country,” West said. “We know that the Texas legislature house members have frankly been on the forefront on those particular issues.”
Then, Huang kicked off the presentation with the latest COVID-19 updates.
“We are seeing an upsurge in cases,” Huang said. “In Dallas County, we moved from the orange transmission level up to red. In the trauma services area E for instance, we just reported yesterday over 2000 COVID patients in our hospitals, I think exactly 2036. That was an increase of 57 from the prior day. To put it in perspective, on July 6, we had 468 persons in the hospital. So going from 468 to 2036, and just a little over a month, it’s almost over four times, almost five times the number of what we saw.”
Children are also being affected by the upsurge in COVID-19 cases.
“Another alarming situation is we actually have 51 confirmed COVID-19 pediatric patients hospitalized and that’s about three times the volume of a month ago,” Huang said. “That’s what we’re seeing is really a tremendous increase in the numbers again in our healthcare system. Hospital systems are reporting a lot of stress with this.”
The rise in cases can be preventable Huang concluded.
“Almost all of these hospitalizations are in persons who have not received the vaccine, the deaths that we’re seeing, almost all of them are among persons who have not been vaccinated,” he said. “The good thing is that the vaccine is still effective against preventing hospitalizations and deaths and serious illness even with the Delta variant. What was identified in the recent weeks is that people who’ve been vaccinated can still carry the virus and large amounts of the virus even though they’re not getting as seriously ill, which is a good thing. They can carry more of the virus and transmit it to others, which is why then the CDC changed some of their guidance in terms of recommending that people who are fully vaccinated still use the mask also when they’re indoors or in public settings or in close proximity to others.”
According to Huang, 50% of the people in Dallas County are protected with the vaccines while another 50% are not.
Huang reported that several parts of Dallas County have unvaccinated citizens.
“75243 is another area that’s further North but has also been some of the higher areas that we’ve seen, we’ve actually been very successful getting the 65 and older populations vaccinated which is a good thing,” he said. “So many of the areas though, are areas also with a younger population But we still have a hard time getting people in the southern sector to get that vaccination.”
Afterwards, Crockett joined the conversation and gave an update on the Texas legislature. Crockett was still in D.C. with other Democratic state representatives at the time of this article.
“We have been told that there will be a vote on the voting bill this week and there’s a number of us, the majority of us are still here in D.C. trying to make sure that we can continue to have meetings and apply pressure to make sure that we get somewhere on voting rights,” Crockett said. “That way, we all know that the Republicans do have the numbers to pass whatever bill they want to pass. But this would allow for some federal oversight and go ahead and just void some of the provisions that they’re wanting to include and just make sure that we have better access and expand access to the ballot box. So we are holding on. We’re believing and we are continuing to fight here in D.C.”
West then went over the bills that are currently being considered in the upcoming legislative session. He discussed the bills that were passed due to the winter storm in Texas that occurred in February.
“There were three bills that were passed in the session, Senate Bill 2, Senate Bill 3, House Bill 44 and 92.” West said. “In SB 3, common sense would tell us that the electric utility companies, the natural gas companies should weatherize equipment to withstand extreme temperatures and be a part of coal. We did that back in 2011 but it was never implemented. There was no timetable for it to happen. Well, SB 3 requires again that it be done. There’s no mapping, you may have heard several instances that if you lived on a power grid, that was adjacent to or on the same power grid as a hospital, a police department, you didn’t have the power of disruption that many others did that did not live on those types of grids. Well, there’s no real mapping in the state of the power infrastructure services. And frankly, the first responder type services that are required or facilities that are required. Under SB 3, we’re going to make certain that that occurs, that there’s a mapping route the entire state of the electric supply chain within the state of Texas that will know where the critical grids are. They will know down to the household down to the existing plant where the electric power is and what needs to be prioritized as it relates to the grid itself. It creates a set of three and also creates an Emergency Alert System for power outages and extreme weather conditions. We’re making some headway as it relates to the electric grid in the state of Texas. But there’s more work to be done.”
West then went over HB 44.
“It provides funding from the Economic Stabilization Fund and the rainy-day fund, and these funds will be used to make payments over wholesale energy providers following the storm.”
He then discussed what is happening and being discussed with the education system in the state, particularly the critical race theory.
“With the State Board of Education, as they adopt rules to implement this particular legislation, we need to make certain that critical historical events are not underscored and not whitewashed, from history. So young people will know our history and not repeat some of the issues of the past. Now, let me say this, we should not teach that one race is superior to the other. But in teaching that, we’ve got to make certain that young people understand that that is what
has occurred in our history, whether it’s a Ku Klux Klan, whether it’s the state of Texas that decided to leave the union, and in its articles of succession, talk about the reason that they were leaving, was to make certain that Black people in the state of Texas continued to be subjugated to that of White people. That’s wrong. It’s just clearly wrong. Whether you are White, Black, Hispanic, whatever the case may be, we have to make certain that we show up and then whatever is adopted by the State Board of Education, that we have input into that particular process.”
West then presented a bill that addresses dating violence and awareness called the Christine Blubaugh Act or SB 7.
“It is named in honor of a 16-year-old from Grand Prairie who was killed. The fact is it was as a result of dating violence, and we were able to pass the bill in the Senate. The bill would have required school districts to be trained in teaching teachers about dating violence and counseling services. But the bill was vetoed by the governor. The governor vetoed the bill because he wants parents to have a voice and whether or not their child should and should be placed in that particular course.”
He also discussed SB 642 which amends existing law that provides mental health treatment for children who have severe emotional or mental health problems that require residential treatment.
West is also a co-sponsor of HB 133, which addresses maternal morbidity.
“That’s a big issue with low income and minority women in Texas, the current postpartum coverage, a mother served by Medicaid in 60 days after childbirth and, yet again, records show that 31% of these pregnancy related deaths occur 43 days to one year following pregnancy,” he said. “Under the existing law, the six days after they give birth is when the new bill would extend coverage for Medicaid eligible women to a minimum of 12 months following childbirth or involuntary miscarriages. HB 133 was exceptional legislation. We’ve been trying to get that passed over and over again, and State Rep. Tony Rose was able to shepherd that particular bill through the legislative process. In order to get that done. SB 8, the fetal heartbeat bill, this particular bill continues to be a legislative wedge issue between pro-right, pro-choice and pro-life advocates. This bill was passed by the legislature. I assure you that this bill is going to be a bill that in fact will continue to find its way through the court process and ultimately be another attack on Roe v. Wade.”
West concluded the meeting with those that need help with rental assistance through the Texas Coronavirus Relief Bill Rental Assistance Program that is available.
“We know that there’s $1.3 billion in emergency rental assistance funds that are being allocated. So we’ve got to make certain that the least of us are able to access those funds and provide jobs to families,” he said. “So the thing that happens, especially with children that we know need to be going to school and need to have some sort of stability as relates to where they live. We want to make certain that they take advantage of the funding that’s available.”
West said those needing assistance with rent can call the Texas Rent Relief line at 1-833-989-7368 or can call the senate office at 214-467-0123 locally.