The stats for COVID in Texas were mixed for the last two weeks (ending October 3), showing relatively small changes. So far, there is not much indication of a fall surge, about which there has been so much concern.
After a steep two-month decline in hospitalizations and ICU occupancy, the data flattened out over the last two weeks. Total hospitalizations increased slightly from 3,124 to 3,194 as did ICU patients, which increased from 1,083 to 1,101, both rising by ≈2%.
Regionally, we have done a little better than the State as a whole. Statewide, the hospitalizations and ICU occupancy are still a little over double what they were prior to the summer surge. Levels in our region, however, are a little lower.
Reported fatalities continued to steadily decline at a modest pace. Average daily reported fatalities fell from 103 in the previous two-week period to 82 during the last two weeks. This is the first time since July that reported daily fatalities have averaged less than 100.
As we have discussed previously, Texas began reporting fatalities by the date of death in early July. So, the numbers we see each day are the number of fatalities confirmed by the State for that day, not the number of people who actually died that day. The chart below is the number of fatalities by the actual date of death. The third week in July continues to be the peak of the fatalities (July 23 at 274). About a month ago, when most death certificates should have been filed, fatalities were averaging about 93, compared to 125 two months ago.
(Reminder – the number of fatalities on the right end of this chart are understated because of the lag time in the filing of death certificates and will, therefore, increase over time as is demonstrated by looking at earlier report dates on this chart.)
For some context, normally about 500-600 people in Texas die each day during this time of year. So, 90-100 fatalities per day would be a little over15% above normal. The CDC currently estimates that Texas fatalities have run about 16% above normal during the pandemic.
Texas’ fatality rate per 100,000 is 55, which ranks 20th among all states and 8th among the ten largest states. Of the large states, only California and North Carolina have a lower fatality rate.
I don’t even know what to say about the issue of testing and new cases anymore. Twice in the last two weeks, the State reported over 100,000 test results with a positivity rate of under 4%. But on September 22 & 23 the State reported about 27,000 positive test results, most of which were from weeks, and in some cases, even months earlier. The positivity rate for those two days was over 30%. In other words, the testing/new case data is crap.
My best guess is that there were about 3,000-4,000 new cases per day over the last two weeks and the positivity rate was in the 6-7% range. It does not appear there has been much change over the last six weeks or so. The Texas Medical Center has published the chart of new cases in the Houston region. In it, they attempt to separate out old, backlogged cases from test results closer to the reporting data.
Their analysis shows that infections in our region topped out in mid-July, which would be consistent with fatalities topping out a couple of weeks later as noted above. After a steep decline from that peak through the early part of September, new cases have been bumping along about the same level since then. I suspect this was, more or less, true for the rest of the State as well.
We have made it through September without any sign of a major surge from Labor Day or school reopenings. However, the dramatic improvement we have been seeing since late July has definitely ground to a halt. As I speculated in this post, we may be entering a phase of the epidemic where the opposing forces of the relaxation of suppression efforts and growing naturally acquired immunity are be offsetting each other with, more or less, equal effect. Unless one of those gets the upper hand, we may well be stuck around this level until a vaccine is released.