Capital highlights: Rare case of human rabies under investigation
A Medina County child is being treated for rabies in a Texas hospital, the Department of State Health Services reported last week. It is the first case of rabies in a human reported in the state since 2009. The child was bitten by a bat, according to DSHS.
Public health officials have identified all the places where someone could have come into contact with either the bat or the child. Experts are assessing the risk to those people and whether they should receive post-exposure vaccinations to prevent them from contracting rabies.
The department noted that rabies is almost always fatal once contracted, but is preventable if the vaccine and immune globulin are administered before symptoms begin. In Texas, according to DSHS, skunks and bats account for most animal rabies cases. Nearly 600 animals in Texas tested positive for rabies last year, about half of them bats.
10-digit dialing mandatory in several new areas
The days of being able to just dial seven digits in seven Texas area codes are behind us. In July 2020 the Federal Communications Commission approved 988 as the abbreviated dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Several Texas area codes (254, 361, 409, 806, 830, 915 and 940) have numbers with a 988 prefix, and had to transition to 10-digit local dialing after the FCC order.
The Texas Public Utility Commission announced effective Oct. 25 that all local calls dialed in those area codes with just seven digits will reach a recording that prompts the caller to redial using all 10 digits. The change does not affect price, coverage area or other rates and services, according to the PUC.
Another look at impact of Winter Storm Uri
More than eight months after an unprecedented snow and ice storm led to widespread power blackouts in Texas, the Texas Comptroller’s office took an in-depth look at the state’s response and the legislative actions that followed.
Texas is the only state in the continental United States with its own electric power grid, which serves 90% of its population. Parts of East Texas, the Panhandle and El Paso are outside the area managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and didn’t experience widespread outages.
Winter Storm Uri knocked out power and disrupted water utilities for nearly 70% of the state’s residents for extended periods. Financial loss estimates range from $80 billion to $130 billion, according to Comptroller Glenn Hegar.
The comptroller’s report explains the economic toll of the storm and the legislative changes to the electric market structure passed in the 87th Legislature. Critics have said the changes do not go far enough to make power companies weatherize their plants to insure against further outages due to extreme weather.
Drought expands throughout state
Texas is drying up.
Warmer and drier conditions are being reported throughout much of the state, reports the Texas Water Development Board. Approximately one-fifth of the state is now experiencing drought conditions, mainly in Northeast Texas, the Panhandle, Far West Texas and South Texas.
The National Weather Service expects drought to expand across the state through the end of January due to La Niña conditions that are expected to bring Texas a warmer and drier winter than normal.
COVID-19 vaccines for kids coming to state
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years. In Texas that could mean nearly 3 million children are now eligible for the vaccine.
The FDA reported immune responses in children in that age range were comparable to those of persons 16 to 25 years old. The vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing the virus in children 5 through 11. The ongoing study of approximately 3,100 children found no serious side effects.
More than a million doses targeting children in that age group are being sent to providers in nearly half of the state’s counties, according to DSHS. As of Sunday, 15.44 million Texans have been fully vaccinated, which is right at 53% of the state’s population.
COVID-19 cases, deaths continue to drop
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Texas in the past week dropped to 28,840, and new deaths dipped to 937— the first time below 1,000 since summer, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.
The total number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to decrease, with 3,571 reported throughout the state, down nearly 19% from the previous week, according to DSHS.
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.