How a glitchy computer system skewed Texas’ coronavirus data and hampered its pandemic response

By Shannon Najmabadi and Edgar Walters, The Texas Tribune Sept. 24, 2020

“How a glitchy computer system skewed Texas’ coronavirus data and hampered its pandemic response” 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.

A glitchy electronic system that state health officials had repeatedly warned was aging and at high risk of “critical failure” has stymied efforts to track and manage the coronavirus in Texas and left policymakers with incomplete, and at times inaccurate, data about the pandemic’s spread.

The state’s public health agency asked Texas lawmakers for money last year to improve a reporting system — the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System, or NEDSS — it said was several versions behind what other states used at the time. The work was months from being finished when the coronavirus

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Texas State Board of Education revising sex education standards

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By the age of 16, Atticus Sandlin has become a sex education expert.

As a student at Hebron High School in Lewisville Independent School District, in the suburbs of Dallas, he built what he calls a “sex ed mini career,” educating himself through internet research, conferences and advocacy groups — then turning around and educating his peers.

Last school year, he says, students would find him in the halls to ask questions like, “What is a hymen?” or “Does this count as sex?” He handed out condoms, pamphlets and dental dams to anyone who asked, and highlighted the importance of respecting other people’s boundaries. He even taught sexual education classes specifically for LGBTQ students through Youth First, a program in North Texas for queer teens.

Texas does not require public

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Central Texas school districts will have free flu vaccine clinics in October; Austin groups advocate for flu education

Health officials said this could probably be the most important flu shot because the U.S. is in the middle of a pandemic.

AUSTIN, Texas — E3 Alliance, a data-driven education group, is partnering with Health Heroes America to offer free flu shots to Central Texas families and school districts in the Austin area during the last two weeks of October. Whether a child is learning on campus or online, they will have a chance to get a free flu vaccine. 

U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) said this is a push Texas needs to avoid more illnesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s more important than ever because its symptoms are so similar to COVID-19. You don’t want to weaken your body and be more susceptible to COVID-19, and you don’t want to mix the two,” Doggett said. 

E3 Alliance’s data shows acute illnesses such as colds or flu account for 48%

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A Texas Tycoon Throws Millions at the Covid Testing Puzzle

a person standing posing for the camera

© Christopher Lee for The Wall Street Journal

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas—A hotly debated attempt to solve America’s coronavirus testing shortage began with a sick, frustrated billionaire at home in a leafy Texas Hill Country town north of San Antonio.

Graham Weston, co-founder of cloud-computing company Rackspace Hosting Inc., owns a pair of homes in New Braunfels. When the pandemic hit in March, he flew his son back from studying in the U.K. and quarantined him in a spare riverside ranch house.

It didn’t work. Though Mr. Weston’s son showed no symptoms, he was carrying the virus; he gave it to his father at the airport pickup, the family suspects. Mr. Weston fell so ill he thought he would die.

Since then, he has been on a crusade to persuade high-level politicians, teachers and fellow business leaders that the key to reopening schools and the economy is to test people

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STAAR returns in 2021 and other takeaways on the state of Texas education

If Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has any say in the matter — and he most definitely does, the state’s battery of standardized tests will resume in the spring despite pleas to suspend the assessments for the 2020-21 school year.

Morath shared those thoughts in a virtual fireside chat at Friday’s State of Public Education luncheon, held by the Dallas Regional Chamber.

Here are a few takeaways that Morath and four local educational leaders — Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser, Richardson ISD Superintendent Jeannie Stone and Dallas ISD board president Justin Henry — made during the 90-minute presentation, moderated by The Dallas Morning News‘ deputy publisher Leona Allen Ford:

STAAR returns

The shutdown of public schools in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic led Gov. Greg Abbott to waive the administration requirements for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, tests

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Bowers, Douglas disagree over education, jobs, health care in eastern Dallas County Texas House race

One in a series about elections for the Texas House of Representatives.

State Rep. Rhetta Bowers’ record during her first term in office is a point of fundamental disagreement between her and Republican challenger, Will Douglas.

Bowers, a Democrat who flipped House District 113 in 2018, says she worked across the aisle to pass significant legislation, like a major funding bill for public schools and laws that increased mental health precautions to prevent school shootings.

Douglas, an entrepreneur who owns several small pharmacies, says Bowers is one of the most “progressive” members in the Legislature whose ideas will shutter small businesses, stymie innovation and derail the Texas economy.

The two are in a heated battle to represent the traditionally Republican district which covers parts of Garland, Mesquite and Rowlett. The race’s outcome could have a larger effect in determining which party holds control in the Texas House next January.

VOTE campaign buttons on top of scattered hundred dollar bills spread out beneath it. Concept image illustrating election funding, political donations, Super Pac money, political bribes.


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Share Of Positive COVID-19 Cases As Texas Reopened Was Higher Than Originally Reported, New State Calculations Show

a close up of a bottle

© Provided by Patch

By Shawn Mulcahy, The Texas Tribune Sept. 16, 2020

State health officials published new data this week that showed the state’s coronavirus positivity rate was higher in the spring than originally disclosed, even as public officials cited the data to justify business reopenings during the pandemic.

The Department of State Health Services announced a new method Monday for calculating the positivity rate, or the proportion of positive tests, and conceded that the previous method obscured the extent of viral transmission by combining old and new cases. The new formula relies on the date a coronavirus test was administered, rather than the date it was reported to health officials and verified as a case.


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As Texas prepared for the first phase of reopening in late April, Gov. Greg Abbott repeatedly pointed to the state’s positivity rate, even as the number of new cases and deaths

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Texas rejects proposed LGBTQ lessons in schools as part of sex education revision

LGBTQ rights advocates are pushing back against the Texas Board of Education’s recent rejection of a proposed curriculum to teach middle school and high school students about gender identity and sexual orientation.

a group of people on a sidewalk: Students walk on the campus of Wheatley High School in Houston, Sept. 11, 2017.

© Ilana Panich-linsman/The New York Times via Redux, FILE
Students walk on the campus of Wheatley High School in Houston, Sept. 11, 2017.

The Republican-dominated board rejected a batch of proposed curriculum changes last week, striking down mandates to require students to learn about the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation as well as a proposal to teach middle schoolers about consent. The board is expected to take a final vote on any changes in the sexual education curriculum in November.


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Some proponents of the changes called the rejection “especially tragic” as research shows that most LGBTQ students don’t feel safe at school because of harassment and bullying.

MORE: What other cities can learn from

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Texas Education Agency assigns monitor over Manor school district – News – Austin American-Statesman

After a yearlong investigation into the alleged wrongdoing of the Manor school board president, the Texas Education Agency is assigning a monitor to oversee the Manor district and its school board members, according to a correction action plan sent to Manor this month and obtained by the American-Statesman.

A monitor, conservator or board of managers typically are assigned to a district for continuous low academic performance. Monitors are appointed by the education commissioner “to participate in and report to the agency on the activities of the board of trustees or the superintendent,” according to the agency.

The Texas Education Agency in August 2019 began reviewing complaints lodged against the Manor district after three district officials — two human resources employees and a trustee — said board President Elmer Fisher conspired with two other employees and other board trustees to oust the former superintendent, violating the Open Meetings Act by discussing

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West Texas A&M creates a model to bring higher education to America’s smallest communities

It is not often a graduation ceremony comes to the student. And the number of times a ceremony that includes West Texas A&M University president Walter Wendler and four other top administrators driving 436 miles round-trip to present a bachelor’s degree to a graduate can be counted on one finger.

But there they were on the first Wednesday of September, burning up Interstate 20 and U.S. 84 to Roscoe, a town of 1,285 located 50 miles west of Abilene. Awaiting them, among others, was 19-year-old Amanda Sanchez.

There was a method to their mileage.

“We’re here to serve the communities that make up the Panhandle and South Plains,” Wendler said. “We’re not offering a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. What we’re trying to do if a student is interested in working hard and has a chance to gain a college education, we want to be here

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