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Texas Matters: Power Cut-Offs, Hospital Shut-Downs And The Delta Variant

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On the trail of the Delta variant
Boris Roessler/Boris Roessler/dpa
An empty swab tube for the analysis of the Corona virus is held in front of a monitor in the laboratory of the company "Bioscientia" for illustration purposes, on which a so-called "melting curve" of the "delta variant" of the virus is shown.

The state of Texas is sitting on nearly $16 billion in Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Relief funds. These are federal dollars that were allocated to help states deal with the unbudgeted demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Governor Greg Abbott is considering using the COVID relief fund to pay for the border wall and other responses to a recent rise in migration. This would need approval in a coming special session of the legislature, which recently had its entire budget vetoed by Abbott.

This is happening as Texans are facing mass evictions and electricity and water cut offs because they haven’t been able to pay their bills during the COVID economic downturn. Those COVID relief funds could be used to help them and not be used to pay for a border wall that immigrant rights activists and many border officials consider to be political and symbolic.

Private electricity companies can turn people's electricity off for past-due bills beginning this week. State regulators lifted a moratorium on disconnections after months of pressure from private industry. Texas Public Radio's Dominic Anthony Walsh reports.

Rural Hospitals

Rural Texas has a hospital problem. In the last 10 years across the US, 136 small-town hospitals have shuttered, and Texas has been hit the hardest, according to American Public Media. So, what happens to residents in those communities when an emergency strikes and critical care is far away?

Texas Tech Public Media’s Jayme Lozano takes us to one small town that is feeling the pain of life without a hospital.

Delta Variant

The gap between the most vaccinated and least vaccinated places in Texas continues to grow wider. People who live in high population urban counties have a high vaccination rate. People who live in rural counties lag behind.

These also happen to be strong Republican voting areas that have also resisted mask wearing. But now there’s a new strain of COVID – the delta variant that is more easily transmitted. It’s not clear if it’s more deadly — but it spreads faster. The delta variant now accounts for 25 percent of the COVID cases in America and is on the rise. Based on initial studies, it is believed COVID-19 vaccinations are effective against the delta variant.

For more on the delta Variant — here’s is the latest episode of Texas Public Radio’s podcast — Petrie Dish.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi