Senate Education Committee Sends Virtual Learning Bill to Full Chamber

Covid was central during several senate hearings in Austin today.

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Healthcare leaders from around the state addressed the flood of COVID-19 patients in hospitals and the need for more medical personnel at a Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing Tuesday.

Those who spoke to the committee included Parkland Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang, who said the hospital had 470 open nursing positions it was struggling to fill.

“Unfortunately it is like a bidding war, is really what it is," Chang said. "You know we work with the same agencies largely, all the large hospital systems in Dallas."

The caregiver shortage and hospitals nearing capacity with coronavirus patients were among the biggest concerns raised.

One member of the panel asked the state health commissioner about the ability to protect children in schools who are not yet approved to get a vaccine.

“Our recommendation is that individuals take every precaution that they deem to be beneficial, and again I would go back to pointing out those non-pharmaceutical interventions. The masking, the distancing, all of those. They absolutely work,” Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services Dr. John Hellerstedt said.

Down the hall, the Senate Education Committee passed a bill that would fund virtual and will head to the full Senate.

The controversy over Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order prohibiting school districts from mandating masks continued.

“By stripping our districts of the right to enforce the mask mandate while this delta variant is on the rise, and our children are still unable to get the vaccine, is not a solution towards ending our pandemic,” state Senator Beverly Powell (D-Fort Worth) said.

Governor Greg Abbott’s press secretary Renae Eze issued the following statement Tuesday.

“We are all working to protect Texas children and those most vulnerable among us, but violating the Governor’s executive orders—and violating parental rights—is not the way to do it. Governor Abbott has been clear that the time for mask mandates is over; now is the time for personal responsibility. Parents and guardians have the right to decide whether their child will wear a mask or not, just as with any other decision in their child’s life. Governor Abbott has spent his entire time in office fighting for the rights and freedoms of all Texans, and our office continues working with the Office of the Attorney General to do just that. The best defense against this virus is the COVID vaccines, and we continue to strongly encourage all eligible Texans to get vaccinated.”

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