In Texas, latest COVID-19 wave could cost 72,000 jobs, study finds

State & Regional

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(CBS MONEYWATCH) — The recent upsurge in COVID-19 cases in Texas is hitting the state economically as well as in terms of lives lost, a new study concludes.

The Perryman Group, an economic research and analysis firm in Waco, Texas, estimates that the state’s failure to contain the disease has led to nearly 72,000 job losses and an annualized decline in output of more than $13 billion. On average, the state loses roughly $187,000 for every employee who is unable to return to work because of the pandemic, the firm found.

“Despite these concerns, there has been massive resistance by policymakers to sensible and basic protective measures, such as appropriate masking requirements and measures to encourage higher vaccination rates,” the firm said in the report. “In addition to these obvious consequences, this approach is also resulting in preventable losses to the economy through reduced employment and decreases in productivity.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott in May issued an executive order barring public schools and most other government entities in the state from imposing mask requirements. The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday denied a petition from Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that aimed to reinstate a ban on such mandates in schools. 

Paxton is appealing the court’s ruling, saying in a statement this week that he “will sue every single local entity and local official” who violates Abbott’s order. His office on Friday filed a complaint against the San Antonio school district requesting a temporary restraining order prohibiting it from mandating vaccinations. 

More than 53,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Texas, and nearly 13,000 are currently hospitalized, according to the state’s department of health. As of August 19, 95% of the state’s intensive care unit beds were occupied, data show. The flood of infections is forcing some seriously ill patients to wait hours for a place in the ICU, a Texas physician recently told CBS News. Abbott tested positive for the disease earlier this week. 

The disease has killed more than 625,000 Americans, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The economic losses from failing to halt the pandemic stem from a drop in productivity as business activity slows, according to the Perryman Group. Fear of getting infected also leads to job losses as workers opt to stay home, sometimes to look after family members with COVID-19.

Experts say the latest COVID-19 wave around the U.S., fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, is also beginning to weigh on economic growth nationwide, though most forecasters expect activity to rebound later this year.

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