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COVID-19 in Texas: U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over federal vaccine mandates that state officials oppose

COVID-19 in Texas: U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over federal vaccine mandates that state officials oppose

COVID-19 in Texas: U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over federal vaccine mandates that state officials oppose” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

U.S. Supreme Court will hear challenges to federal vaccine mandates

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it will hear challenges to two Biden administration mandates on COVID-19 vaccines. Texas is among the states and businesses suing over the proposed requirements.

The court picked Jan. 7 to hear oral arguments in the cases, which seek to overturn the administration’s vaccine requirements for large employers and health care facilities.

An appeals court on Friday ruled the mandate on businesses with at least 100 employees could take effect next month.

Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the cases, tweeting that “if the Justices apply the Constitution they will strike down those mandates.” — Patrick Svitek

Texas A&M cites coronavirus “issues” as a reason for pulling out of Gator Bowl

Texas A&M University announced Wednesday it would not be able to safely participate in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl against Wake Forest University on Dec. 31 due to “a combination of COVID-19 issues within the Texas A&M football program, as well as season-ending injuries.”

“It is unfortunate, but we just don’t have enough scholarship players available to field a team,” Aggie head football coach Jimbo Fisher said in a statement.

A Texas A&M football spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about how many players had been impacted by the virus. The bowl game was to be played in Jacksonville, Florida. — Kate McGee

As another surge upends holiday plans, at-home tests are in short supply

After nearly two years of navigating life during a pandemic, many Texans thought the first holiday season after vaccines became widely available would be relaxing and filled with friends and relatives. But the omicron variant of COVID-19 has upended the holidays for many Texans as they’ve spent the week scrambling for COVID tests, delaying plans and worrying about relatives who have been exposed to the virus — or already tested positive for it.

The rapid rise of the omicron variant has sent Texans clamoring for a quick and easy way to get some peace of mind via a negative test result. But drug stores like CVS and Walgreens report that tests, which cost roughly between $10 and $40 dollars, have been widely out of stock or in short supply nationwide for months.

Meanwhile, demand is soaring for free testing at city- and county-run sites. While many public health officials say they have not reached testing capacity at their free, public sites even as they’ve seen demand jump, at least one local official told The Texas Tribune they had started to experience shortages.

“There’s a lot more demand for testing than there is capacity for testing,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said. “We made a request to the state for 5,000 additional tests and I don’t believe at this moment we’ve heard back from them yet.”

— Cassandra Pollock, Kate McGee and Mitchell Ferman

Texas’ seven-day average of daily new cases more than doubles in a week

Texas is seeing a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus infections. The seven-day average for the number of positive tests has more than doubled in the past week. As of Tuesday, an average of 6,057 tests were coming back positive each day for the past week. That was an increase of 3,534 compared to a week ago.

Although COVID-19 hospitalizations remain relatively low in most of the state, the number of hospitals reporting full ICU units has started to increase again after dropping since August. — Texas Tribune staff

Projections presume omicron will be as severe as delta for the unvaccinated

What the omicron variant means for vaccinated individuals is still unclear, but UT-Austin projections released last week predict that the new variant could, in a worst-case scenario, lead to the most severe health care surges of the pandemic so far throughout the nation. More optimistically, the variant could lead to a less drastic spike in deaths and hospitalizations than what the country saw in January.

The projections presume that omicron will be as severe as delta for unvaccinated individuals with no antibodies and that vaccinated individuals will have significant but potentially less protection than they have against delta.

When delta raged in Texas this fall, the state health department reported that unvaccinated people were 13 times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people and were 20 times more likely to die.

The COVID-19 vaccine’s protection goes down with time, so medical experts recommend a supplemental dose for all adults after two to six months. Find out here if it’s time for you to get one. — Jolie McCullough

Texas hospitals brace for another surge

Hospitals are bracing for not only another surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, but also for a renewed burden on an already burned-out and depleted workforce.

Although some Texas hospitals are better prepared than they were at the beginning of the pandemic — thanks in part to vaccines becoming more widely available and the gained experience treating COVID-19 patients — staff morale still stands on shaky ground, according to hospital officials in Texas’ largest metro areas and across the state. — Allyson Waller

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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