For the last two weeks (ending April 17), COVID fatalities continued to decline while other metrics were mostly flat. The reduction in fatalities appears to be tied to Texas’ amazing success in vaccinating those over 65.
Hospitalizations and ICU bed usage for the last two weeks bounced around 2,900 and 900, respectively.
There was little change in any of Texas’ 22 reporting regions, including the Houston region.
The seven-day average for reported fatalities dropped from 89 to 55 (-38%). This is the lowest level since last July. The national seven-day average over the same time period only fell by 10%.
The state’s actual date of death analysis, which compensates for the reporting delays, continues to show the precipitous decline in fatalities from the mid-January highs. That analysis suggests that real-time daily fatalities are now probably in the 30-40 range. If so, that would mean that COVID is currently involved in 5-10% of all daily fatalities in Texas.
The latest run of the IHME model continues to show a steady decline over the next three months, falling to near zero by the end of July. Its “worst case” scenario has been revised to show fatalities falling at a slightly lower rate and reaching 10 fatalities per day by the end of July. Interestingly, its “universal mask” scenario shows almost no difference from its base case projection.
Texas continues to lag on vaccinations on a per capita basis for its over-18 population but has significantly outperformed the rest of the country in getting its over-65 population vaccinated. About 29% of the over 18-population has been fully vaccinated, compared to a national average of 32%.
CORRECTION: A couple of days after I this post, the CDC revised Texas’ over-65 percent fully vaccinated to ~60%. It was apparently incorrectly reporting those who had received one dose as being fully vaccinated.
However, an astonishing 77% of the over-65 population has been fully vaccinated. Only three small states have higher rates. California, New York and Florida are all far behind in the 60-65% range.
The number of tests in Texas began fall again over the last two weeks, from about 60,000 to 53,000 tests per day. The seven-day average of “new cases” vacillated in the 3,000-3,500 range. The calculated positivity rate and State’s positivity rate based on the date of specimen both increased from ~5.5% to ~7%.
It has now been a little over five weeks since Governor Abbott eliminated the mask mandate and loosened restrictions and there is no indication that his doing so has had any adverse effect on the course of the pandemic in Texas. The trajectory in Texas has been very similar to the rest of the country over the last month, with Texas doing somewhat better at reducing fatalities. That probably is attributable to the higher vaccination rate among those over 65.
The IHME model as of April 16 has daily new cases currently at about 6,500, which would indicate that testing is discovering about half of all cases. If so, that would be up dramatically from earlier in the epidemic and further underlines the validity of “new case” comparison to earlier counts. The model predicts that cases will fall to about 300 per day by the end of July. It ramped its worst case back up to about 1,300 cases per day by the end of July. Interestingly, its “universal mask” case predicts that cases would fall to essentially zero by the end of July, but as I previously mentioned, would have no effect on fatalities.
It appears to me that in Texas, and most of the country, the opposing forces for vaccines on one hand and reduced containment measures and the variants on the other hand, have fought to a standstill. There are still many public health officials warning about a fourth wave. However, I cannot see how the vaccinations and ever-growing natural immunity do not get the upper hand fairly soon, precluding any significant fourth wave. The models’ projections of a steady decline through the spring and early summer seem to be in agreement with that conclusion.