Capital Highlights: April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
The latest report on child maltreatment fatalities and near fatalities, compiled by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, indicates 251 children in Texas died in fiscal year 2020 due to abuse and neglect. That figure includes 28 children who died after being left unattended in hot vehicles.
During Child Abuse Prevention Month, DFPS is encouraging communities to increase awareness of resources available to help prevent child abuse in Texas. Resources are available at getparentingtips.com.
DSHS launches Texas vaccine scheduler
With anyone 16 and older now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the Texas Department of State Health Services has launched the Texas Public Health Vaccine Scheduler. It establishes a single place to sign up for a vaccine through multiple public health agencies. Texans can visit getthevaccine.dshs.texas.gov to create a profile and pick a preferred day and time for an appointment. In most cases, people will be matched with the next available appointment in their home counties.
People without internet service or who have difficulty using the online registration tools can call 1-833-832-7067 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week for assistance.
As of Sunday, 7.92 million Texans had been vaccinated, meaning 41 percent of the state’s residents have received at least one shot. Some 4.46 million are fully vaccinated. DSHS announced Friday that more than 2.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines are shipping out this week — more than double the previous high.
Meanwhile, new COVID-19 cases in Texas dropped again compared to the previous week, with 21,754 reported, down about 20% week to week. The number of deaths dropped to 637 last week, down about 14% from the previous week. Hospitalizations of confirmed COVID-19 patients again dropped, to 2,840 statewide.
McAdams appointed to PUC
Gov. Greg Abbott has nominated Will McAdams to the Public Utility Commission, subject to state senate confirmation. McAdams will join the sole remaining member of the three-person commission, Chairman Arthur D’Andrea, who previously announced his resignation but agreed to stay on until Abbott could appoint new members. McAdams is president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas and worked for legislators for more than a decade in various senior staff positions.
The PUC came under fire after the disastrous electrical blackouts during the mid-February winter storm, since it has supervisory power over the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which controls the power grid for most of the state. Nearly half of ERCOT’s 15-member board has since resigned.
An investigation by the Houston Chronicle indicates nearly 200 people died in the winter storm, primarily from hypothermia or carbon monoxide poisoning. More than 4 million homes in Texas were without power at the peak of the crisis. As State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, noted in the article, the winter storm death toll was almost double that from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Housing affordability, homelessness exacerbated after storm, pandemic
A Fiscal Notes report from the state comptroller’s office indicates median-priced housing in all 10 of the state’s largest metro areas is unaffordable to Texans with median incomes. Median income is the point where half the people earn more and half earn less. For example, the median income in Austin in 2019 was $39,418, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Brownsville, it was $19,432, or less than half of Austin’s median. But in both metro areas, a home at the median price — $491,000 in Austin and $167,800 in Brownsville — is unaffordable to families whose annual income is at or below the median. (All figures are from 2019, the latest year available.)
The report notes a strong correlation between homelessness and housing affordability. Red-hot real estate markets in those metro areas have driven up home prices and rents. After a dozen years of decreases in the number of homeless people in the state, the number has risen since 2018. The latest count of individuals experiencing homelessness on a given night accounted for nearly 26,000 in Texas.
Drought conditions blanket two thirds of the state
While drought conditions have improved in the northern Panhandle, they have gotten more severe in South and East Texas, with 68% of the state’s land now under drought conditions ranging from abnormally dry to exceptional. According to the Texas Water Development Board, for the first time in five weeks the total area of the state affected by drought didn’t increase.
New film series reenacts key moments of Battle of San Jacinto
To mark the 185th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, in which Gen. Sam Houston and the Texian forces defeated Mexican Gen. Santa Anna to secure Texas’ independence in 1836, the Texas Historical Commission is releasing San Jacinto: A Lone Star Shines video series. Every day between April 19-22, the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site will release a short digital film depicting key scenes from the battle. Each day’s video will premiere at 11 a.m. with encore showings at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site’s Facebook page, and on the Texas Historical Commission You Tube channel. The films are free to view.
Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.