Capital Highlights: Texan diagnosed with Zika illness after returning from trip

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AUSTIN — A Texas resident who recently traveled to Miami, Florida, has tested positive for Zika virus disease, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported on Aug. 15.

The traveler, an El Paso County resident, sought testing after becoming ill. This is the first Texas case to be linked to travel within the continental United States. The case will be classified as “travel-associated” and is being investigated for more details, the DSHS said.

While this is El Paso County’s first reported case of Zika, Texas had 121 reported cases of the disease as of Aug. 19. The count includes three pregnant women, two infants infected before birth and one person who had sexual contact with a traveler.

State health officials are urging citizens to take precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites and to get more information from the website, TexasZika.org.

Texas adds jobs in July

Even with the addition of 23,600 non-farm jobs in July, Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 4.6 percent for the month, up from 4.5 percent in June.

The Texas Workforce Commission, however, in its monthly report issued Aug. 19, also noted that Texas’ unemployment rate remained below the national rate of 4.9 percent.

And, according to the TWC, the labor market in the Lone Star State has grown by an estimated 173,000 seasonally adjusted jobs over the past year. Also, state has added jobs in 15 of the last 16 months. 

“Texas employers continued to create jobs last month in a range of industries that are important to the Texas economy,” said Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Andres Alcantar. “TWC will continue to focus on the workforce needs of these crucial industries and build education and training partnerships that support job creation by Texas employers.”

The Amarillo and Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Areas recorded the lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs in July, with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 3.6 percent, followed by the Lubbock MSA with a rate of 4.1 percent.

Military helps economy

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Aug. 18 posted a bulletin with information about his “Good for Texas Tour: Military Edition” — an official excursion that included visits to nine of the 15 military bases in Texas.

Those bases, he said, generate $136.6 billion in economic activity each year, add $81.4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product and pay $48.1 billion in personal income annually. The military helps support more than 800,000 Texas jobs, he said. 

“It’s an important part of a strong, diverse and growing Texas economy,” Hegar added. 

Last fall, Hegar traveled on his first Good for Texas Tour, visiting with people across the state to learn about strengths and weaknesses of local economies. 

Goal is safe, sober travel

Leading up to the Labor Day holiday, the Texas Department of Transportation on Aug. 16 urged drivers to make a plan for a safe and sober ride home.

“Drinking and driving remains a big problem in Texas,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. “If you plan to drink, you must plan ahead for a safe and sober ride home. It’s a plan that could save a family — even your own — from the heartbreak of losing a loved one.”     

The department’s “Plan While You Can” campaign kicked off Aug. 16 in San Antonio and runs through Sept. 5 to coincide with Labor Day and increased DWI enforcement in Texas. During the Labor Day holiday period in 2015, there were 359 alcohol-related crashes that led to 12 fatalities and 36 serious injuries.

TxDOT suggested Texans visit SoberRides.org to find alternatives to drinking and driving. 

DPS: Watch for children

With the start of the new school year ahead, the Texas Department of Public Safety on Aug. 17 cautioned Texans to watch for children who are walking to and from school or waiting for buses. 

State law, TxDOT said, requires that approaching drivers stop when a bus is stopped and operating a visual signal, either red flashing lights or a stop sign. Drivers should not proceed until the school bus resumes motion, the driver is signaled by the bus driver to proceed, or the visual signal is no longer activated. 

A driver does not have to stop for a school bus that is operating a visual signal if it is on a highway with roadways separated by an intervening space or physical barrier. Roadways are not considered separated if divided only by a left-turning lane, and drivers must stop for school buses.

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