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Early voting in Austin earlier this month. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Texas' early and mail-in voting totals for the 2020 election have surpassed the state's total voter turnout in 2016, with 9,009,850 ballots already cast compared to 8,969,226 in the last presidential cycle.

Why it matters: The state's 38 Electoral College votes are in play — and could deliver a knockout blow for Joe Biden over President Trump — despite the fact that it hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976.

  • Polling suggests that Texas — in part because of its changing demographics — has become increasingly favorable for Democrats.
  • Hillary Clinton lost the state by over 800,000 votes in 2016, but former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) lost to Sen. Ted Cruz (R) by only around 215,000 votes in its 2018 Senate race.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden's vice presidential nominee, is heading to Texas on Friday, but Democrats in the state are still urging the campaign to pour more money into the state.

The big picture: Texas is the second state to surpass its 2016 turnout purely from early voting. Hawaii became the first to do so earlier this week.

Go deeper

Jan 25, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

What's next for Minnesota's COVID vaccine rollout

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

State officials say President Biden's pledge to complete 100 million coronavirus vaccinations in his first 100 days could result in the state getting enough doses to come close to hitting herd immunity in the coming months.

Why it matters: If successful, it could mean returning to a state more closely resembling normalcy this summer. But getting there would require a big lift.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

CDC: Vaccinated people in COVID hotspots should resume wearing masks

CDC director Rochelle Walensky and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci at a Senate HELP committee hearing. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance on Tuesday recommending that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the U.S. with substantial to high transmission, among other circumstances.

Why it matters: The guidance, a reversal from recommendations made two months ago, comes as the Delta variant continues to drive up case rates across the country. Millions of people in the U.S. — either by choice or who are ineligible — remain unvaccinated and at risk of serious infection.

Olympics medal tracker

Data: International Olympic Committee; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios