West Texas City Welcomes Trump to Town
with Highest Daily Count in Latest Epicenter
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
July 28, 2020
West Texas Republicans started rolling out the red carpet on Tuesday night with a record spike in coronavirus cases in the Odessa area on the eve of President Donald Trump's visit there.
While the second surge has been on the decline statewide for the past two weeks, the virus that Trump has branded as a partisan conspiracy wasn't cooperating with the presidential travel plans when Ector County hit an all-time today with 258 new infections reported to the state.
The county where Trump plans to pass the hat at a campaign fundraising luncheon on Wednesday has been one of the hottest spots in the Lone Star State this summer with an increase of 287 percent in new cases there in the first four weeks of July.
Ector is second only to Hidalgo County in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases per capita that have been recorded this month in Texas counties with populations of 100,000 or more. The virus infection count has skyrocketed 296 percent in Hidalgo in the Rio Grande Valley in July while soaring 242 percent in neighboring Cameron County and 234 percent in Webb County as the three largest urban areas on the state's southern border with Mexico.
Ector has logged more coronavirus cases per capita than Nueces County that has a higher rate of infections than any other major population center in the state. Ector County shares a common thread with Hidalgo, Cameron, Nueces and Webb as a jurisdiction with a Hispanic majority with Latinos accounting for almost two-thirds of the residents there.
But Ector County stands out from the other major Texas locations that are heavily Hispanic as a place that's remained a Republican stronghold despite explosive Latino growth there in the past two decades. Trump captured 68 percent of the Ector vote in 2016 while faring even better with 75 percent in Permian Basin neighbor Midland County.
The president will expect to carry Ector County again this fall despite the fact that his stock has been falling statewide with polling that shows Democrat Joe Biden running neck and neck with him in Texas.
Trump plans to have Air Force One land late Wednesday morning at the Midland International Air & Space Port before shuffling to Odessa where the Ector County Republican Party has planned a welcoming party for him at the Marriott Hotel before he huddles there with donors who will be forking over $2,800 apiece to have lunch with the president.
The Trump fans who are really rich can get their picture taken with the president for $50,000 with the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion for $100,000 a pop. Trump plans to drive back over to Midland after he's done collecting checks with a photo op scheduled at an oil pumping operation that's apparently been productive enough to have its own name as the Double Eagle Energy Rig.
It's unclear if the coronavirus relapse in the host city for the fundraising event will prompt the president to strap on the mask that he donned in public for the first time about two weeks ago. Trump runs the risk of running afoul of Republican Governor Greg Abbott's statewide mask order if he refuses to cover his face for the events in Midland-Odessa where he has a very personal connection as the self-proclaimed creator of the Texas oil industry. That alone should all but guarantee a healthy flow of funds into the re-election bid coffers during the Permian Basin day trip.
Midland and Ector counties had nearly identical virus case rates as major hot spots throughout the second outbreak until the past week or two. But the cumulative coronavirus count in Midland took a sharp turn to the south one week ago when the state erased 188 infections that had been reported there from the local tally.
While Odessa has sizzled this week, Midland has been coronavirus-free on paper without reporting a single new case in the past three days. Midland was one a dozen major counties that helped keep the Texas daily tally relatively in check today when the Department of State Health Services logged 8,342 new virus infections statewide.
Trump probably won't take time in a tight schedule to travel outside the Midland-Odessa area to some places that have been brutalized even more by the coronavirus this month. Tom Green County where San Angelo is located about two hours from Odessa has seen its virus infection count go up 379 percent in July.
But that's minor compared to tiny Crockett County where Ozona is about a two-hour drive from Odessa. The number of COVID-19 cases that Crockett has recorded this month has gone though the roof with a 1,300 percent increase. Crockett County, which hadn't had a single positive test until June 5, reported five new infections on Tuesday to push its pandemic total to 140.
The president might find some consolation when he arrives in Texas late Tuesday morning that the Midland-Odessa area hasn't reported any new coronavirus fatalities in the past week.