Elections 2022Beto O’Rourke Blames Abbott for COVID-19 Hospitalizations of Fewer Than 300 Minors

The gubernatorial candidate's claim comes amid a case spike as the more contagious, but less deadly, Omicron variant spreads.
January 5, 2022
“Texas’ Covid Crisis Grows More Dire,” reads a campaign email from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, which decries the state and Gov. Greg Abbott for Texas topping the nation in child coronavirus hospitalizations. 

Across the state, only 3.7 percent of coronavirus inpatients are children.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) dashboard, 276 children are currently hospitalized with coronavirus. That is a 200 percent increase from the total around Christmas Day, but a far cry from making up any substantial portion of the total. Throughout the pandemic, children have been less affected by the coronavirus and its various strains than older populations.

Hospitalizations are on the rise since November, as are cases. The omicron variant has proven to be more contagious so far, but, according to the DSHS’s preliminary data, fatalities are still on the decline from early December.

Additionally, hospitals are treating anyone that tests positive while in their care, whether it is the cause for their entry or not, as a coronavirus hospitalization.

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The DSHS defines a coronavirus hospitalization as “The total number of patients in Texas hospitals who have tested positive for COVID-19.”

An individual who enters a hospital for a heart attack, that then tests positive for coronavirus, will be counted in the hospitalization data. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President of United States, said on MSNBC last month that “If you look at the children who are hospitalized, many of them are hospitalized with COVID as opposed to being hospitalized because of COVID.”

“It’s overcounting the number of children who are quote hospitalized with COVID as opposed to because of COVID.”

The DSHS did not return a request for comment on hospitalization counting or how this has skewed the hospitalization figures.

“Covid hospitalizations in Texas have doubled in the past two weeks. They’ve tripled among children. We’re sending more kids to the ER than any other state because Abbott refuses to lead,” O’Rourke says, pointing the blame at the governor.

Specifically, O’Rourke blames Abbott’s executive order prohibiting local governments from issuing mask mandates. While the issue is currently making its way through the courts with mixed results — the Texas Supreme Court sided with the governor in one case while a federal judge and state appeals court each ruled against the governor in November — schools across the state have moved forward with their own mask policies as litigation works itself out.

O’Rourke also criticized his prospective opponent for “picking fights” with federal vaccination mandates. Abbott banned public and private vaccine mandates in October — a reversal from his previous position of a sole ban on public entity mandates — and the state has sued the federal government on multiple fronts over the White House’s various orders.

The latest, filed Tuesday, concerns the Secretary of Defense’s vaccination mandate for military personnel, which includes Texas National Guardsmen. But to-date, the governor has declined to call a special legislative session to place a vaccine mandate ban in statute despite support for it growing within his own party.

He placed that item on the call late in the third special session but bills on that issue did not make it through either chamber.

But while some employers, like the University of Texas, have halted their vaccine mandates. Others, such as Rice University, continue the policy.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.