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Texas challenged by nursing, trucker shortage


Texas has the fourth-lowest nurse-to-population ratio in the country, with only 9.25 nurses per 1,000 residents, according to a recent report by the comptroller’s office.

The state’s aging population, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, has put increased pressure on all categories of nursing. The largest shortage of registered nurses and licensed vocational nurses is occurring in inpatient hospital settings and nursing homes. 

“COVID-19 has really increased the shortage,” said Texas Board of Nursing’s executive director, Kathy Thomas. “Nurses are walking out. They’re worn out, they’re burned out, and they’re stepping away from their jobs.”

Job shortages are also taking place in the trucking industry, which moves 72% of U.S. domestic freight, according to the American Trucking Associations.

A shortage of commercial truck drivers is contributing to increasing supply chain issues. John Esparza, chief executive officer of the Texas Trucking Association, said it will reach 160,000 drivers by the end of the decade.

“We are losing a generation of drivers, and we aren’t replacing them with a generation of potential drivers that is large enough,” he said.

Texas is home to nearly 200,000 commercial truck drivers, the most in the nation. The median wage in the state for truck drivers is $47,000.

Turnover is extremely high, according to Ken Tidwell, dean of San Jacinto College’s workforce development program, which offers a commercial driver’s license program that is invariably full.


TPWD backing wildlife recovery act

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act now being considered in Congress could bring $50 million to the state to protect wildlife, restore land, and provide the state’s residents more ways to enjoy the outdoors. 

“The litany of ways natural resources bolster the Texas economy and improve our quality of life is seemingly endless,” said Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“While it would do much to protect fish and wildlife that need it most, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would also mean a long-term investment in the public health and well-being of all Texans, as well as stewardship of our home ground,” Smith added.

TPWD is urging the public to contact their representatives in Congress to support the legislation.

The bill would provide $1.4 billion nationwide in dedicated annual funding, according to TPWD. It would come from existing revenues.

The Texas outdoor recreation economy generates 327,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in state and local tax funds, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.


Don’t leave the lights on in May

It is bird migration season, and Texas is the epicenter of the annual voyage, with one of every three birds migrating through the United States this spring passing through our state.

BirdCast is urging homeowners and businesses to turn off the lights through its Lights Out Texas initiative. An estimated one billion bird deaths occur annually in the country from collisions with buildings and structures as birds become disoriented by night lighting. 

Building owners, businesses and homeowners can protect migrating birds by turning off all non-essential lights from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., according to BirdCast. 


Health insurer agrees to shut down

Houston-based Salvasen Health has agreed to stop selling unauthorized health insurance under a consent order issued by the Texas Department of Insurance.

The agency said Salvasen was providing health insurance without a license from TDI, which received “numerous complaints saying the insurance plans sold by Salvasen did not offer the health coverage buyers had been promised.”

Under the terms of the order, Salvasen must keep paying claims until all obligations are met. If any assets remain after that, the company must pay back premiums it collected.

The company marketed health insurance policies across the country, selling roughly 65,000 unauthorized health plans.


Texas again ranked #1 for business

For the 18th year in a row, Texas has been named the best state for business by CEO Magazine, although controversies over pro-life and anti-LGBTQ legislation have caused concerns for some CEO’s according to the magazine, which polled nearly 7000 chief executives and business owners. 

The state of Florida finished second, followed by Tennessee and Arizona. At the bottom were Illinois, New York, and California.

“There’s a big spread across the Sun Belt from Raleigh to Charlotte to Tampa and Jacksonville, and the big metro areas of Texas, on to Phoenix that are all in various respects growing fast,” said Cullum Clark, director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative. “It’s a distinctive model.”


COVID-19 cases, deaths drop in past week

The number of new cases of COVID-19 in Texas in the past seven days dropped to 17,549, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University, with 89 deaths recorded. The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations rose slightly in the state, with 802 reported, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.


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