All the COVID stats for Texas for the last two weeks (ending January 9) continued to track higher but because of the holidays, reporting has been very inconsistent and thus, even more difficult than normal to interpret.
Hospitalizations and ICU bed usage appeared to be flattening in the first part of this two-week period but shot up during the first part of the second week before leveling off again in the last few days. Overall, they were up by 29% and 21%, respectively.
Statewide, hospitalizations are now well above the previous peak in July (10,893 vs. 13,921). However, in the Houston region they are still below them (ICUs – 1,136 v. 738). Hospitalizations rose fairly uniformly across the State with Dallas and Houston playing slightly disproportionate roles. Only two reporting regions (Galveston and Lubbock) saw decreases.
The percentage of hospitalizations that resulted in transfers to the ICU fell again over the last two weeks from 27.0% to 25.3%. At the beginning of the epidemic, more than a third of hospitalizations were in the ICU. I suspect we will see this continue to decline with the improvement in clinical care and wider distribution on the new therapeutic drugs.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, there are now 493 hospitalizations for every million Texans. That is above the national average of 403 but well below the current hotspots like California (575), Arizona (698) and Alabama (614).
Average daily reported fatalities jumped from 187 to 234. Some of this increase was due to reporting delays around the holidays. The State’s actual date of death data (charted below) shows that while the daily totals are still lower than the peak in July, this surge is lasting much longer and, therefore, making a much larger cumulative impact on total fatalities.
Despite what you may have read in the local media, Texas continues to run well below the national per capita fatality rate (99 per 100,0000 vs. 108 per 100,000). It currently ranks 28th lowest among all the states and 8th lowest among the ten largest states.
For what it is worth, which is very little, the State reported that testing was off by about 10% but new cases were up by 47%. Texas’ normally erratic testing data was even worse over the last two weeks because of the holidays.
Compared to other states, Texas is off to a good start on vaccine distribution. As of January 9, Texas had administered 618,000 vaccines, more than any other state. This is the CDC website that is tracking the number of people vaccinated. Keep in mind that there are significant reporting delays, especially between the day a batch of vaccines is sent to the states and when it is reported back that the vaccines have been administered. Many, seeing the difference between those two numbers, incorrectly assumed that vaccines were “sitting on the shelf” somewhere.
Over the last month, Texas’ COVID numbers have ground higher in fits and starts. Several times, hospitalizations have flattened out or even declined, teasing us that perhaps the peak had been reached. But on each occasion our hopes have been dashed as those plateaus gave way to a new round of increases.
The widely followed IHME model is projecting that Texas reached peak infections around Christmas and will decline by 95% by April 1. That may seem inconsistent with the current data but keep in mind that the data we see on a daily basis represents what happened days, and sometimes weeks, before because of reporting delays.
The IHME model is also projecting that hospitalizations in Texas will peak this week at slightly above where we are now. (Again, not something you have seen reported in the media.)
The fatality rate has been closely correlated with hospitalizations. We are not going to see much improvement in fatalities until the hospitalizations start to wane. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that IHME is right and we see that peak this week.