For the last two weeks (ending March 20), Texas saw another large drop in hospitalizations and fatalities. So far, the “spring surge” predicted by so many of the “experts” is nowhere in sight.
On top of the large decline in hospitalizations and ICU bed usage two weeks ago, each dropped again in the last two weeks by 26% and 30%, respectively. Total hospitalizations passed another milestone, dropping below 4,000 for the first time since early October. Hospitalizations have fallen by 75% since their peak on January 12.
The daily percentage decline has slowed a bit from 2.5% to 2.2%. Hospitalizations are now only about 500 above their September lows and ICU bed usage is only about 20 above its low.
All of Texas’ 22 reporting regions saw decreases over the last two weeks. Dallas once again saw the largest decline, Houston and San Antonio also saw significant drops.
The seven-day average for reported fatalities dropped from 233 to 127. That decline is probably a little exaggerated because during the first few days of this two-week period some storm delayed numbers were still coming in.
The state’s actual date of death analysis, which compensates for the reporting delays, showed a precipitous decline in fatalities from the mid-January highs.
The latest run of the IHME model currently shows 135 fatalities per day, which I think is a little high, but will be under 10 by the end of June.
At 162 fatalities per 100,000 population, Texas continues to be in the middle of all other states. The national average is slightly higher at 164. Among the ten largest states, Texas is 7th, with only California, Florida and North Carolina having lower rates.
The vaccination of Texans continues to move forward at a steady pace but is lagging behind the rest of the country somewhat. About 14.6% of the over 18-population and 37.1% of the over-65 population has been fully vaccinated. That compares with 16.7% and 40.3% nationally for those two groups.
I know I sound like a broken record on this point but Texas continues to be shorted on its allocations from the federal government. As of Saturday, Texas had moved up the list a bit from 42nd to 39th. Apparently, HHS has conceded they are using some old population numbers, but for the life of me I don’t understand why they cannot get this fixed or why our Congressional delegation has had so little interest in doing so. The good news is that the U.S. should be swimming in vaccines within the next thirty days so this will not matter as much going forward.
Texas’ testing data continues to be highly erratic. Testing levels are down well off their highs and appear to have stabilized at about 50-60,000 per day. The seven-day average of “new cases” fell by a third over the last two weeks, from just over 6,000 per day to just under 4,000. The calculated positivity rate for the two-week period dropped by more than half to 6.9%. The State’s positivity rate based on the date of specimen leveled out at just over 6%.
It has only been ten days since Governor Abbott eliminated the mask mandate and loosened restrictions, so it is too early to tell whether those will have any meaningful impact on the course of the epidemic but certainly nothing has shown up yet. I am concerned that Texas is beginning to lag in vaccinations. Hopefully those numbers will improve over the coming weeks.
The latest run of the IHME model has daily new cases at about 12,700 but falling to 600 by the end of June. It has added a bizarre “worst case” scenario where people who have been vaccinated return to pre-pandemic activity levels. In their worst-case projection, daily cases go back up to about 20,000 and daily fatalities plateau at their current level. How in the world people who have been vaccinated becoming more active can produce that kind of result is beyond me. It must be based on a theory that vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus. We do not know about that for sure but most of the evidence indicates vaccines, at a minimum, greatly reduce the likelihood the person will pass the virus along to someone else.
There is still a lot of concern about the variants, but so far, they have not lived up to the hype. This Wall Street Journal article discusses how cases in South Africa, home to one of the variants so frequently cited with alarm, have collapsed even though their vaccination program has faltered. Great Britain has similarly seen a large drop notwithstanding that it was where one of the worrisome variants was first detected.
On the other hand, the data from Brazil, home to the third variant, shows the pandemic is at its worst levels since the pandemic began. So, it is still an open question.
Unless the trends change, I am probably only going to do two more Texas reports. By then, we should pretty well know if any spring surge is going to erupt or not. If it hasn’t by then, it will be time to move on to other topics.