All stats for COVID in Texas for the last two weeks (ending December 12) worsened. However, the increase in hospitalizations continued to deaccelerate and, at least so far, we have not seen a large increase associated with Thanksgiving.
Total hospitalizations and ICU bed usage were up by 7% and 9%, respectively. Most of that increase occurred in the first few days of this two-week period. We are now 16 days from Thanksgiving and so far, we have not seen a large surge in hospitalizations from the holiday. Some doctors I talked to thought we need to wait until about three weeks out to know for sure if the fears of a major holiday surge are behind us.
The regional pattern in hospitalizations continued the shift from west and north Texas to the metropolitan areas. DFW, Houston, San Antonio and Austin accounted for essentially all of the increase, while eight of the 22 TSAs reported a decline over the last two weeks. The decline in hospitalization in El Paso has been stunning, dropping almost in half in less than 30 days.2
Average daily reported fatalities rose from 131 to 178. For the last couple of months, fatalities have been running about 2% of daily hospitalizations (14-day lag) and about 7% of ICU bed occupancy (7-day lag). If that holds true, we are likely going to see 180-200 average daily fatalities until hospitalizations start tending down.
This is an update on the State’s actual date of death analysis. The highest single day fatality total in this surge has been 162 on November 17. That will track up some as more death certificates are filed but is still well below the summer peak of 278.
The fatalities have been spread across the state in the most recent surge with El Paso and the Panhandle bearing the most disproportionate share. DFW also had more than its per rata share. Harris County, on the other hand, has been below its share.
Daily testing fell by 7% while positive test results rose by 26%. For what it is worth, the number of positive test results actually declined in the second week. But the number of tests and the positivity rate continued to swing wildly from day to day. As I now have repeated many times, I have little faith in the State’s testing data.
I have been surprised that we have not seen more of an uptick in hospitalizations on the back side of Thanksgiving. If we can get through the next week without a major increase that would be very good news indeed and some evidence that we may be at, or approaching, the crest of this wave of infections. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this week’s numbers show that to be the case.
Note 1 –I am still seeing some inconsistencies between the State’s data and local reports and some large daily fluctuations in certain TSAs that seem unlikely. But the discrepancies remain relatively minor and do not, in my opinion, distort the overall trends that the data is indicating.
Note 2 – Some readers have asked me if the decline in hospitalizations in El Paso is because patients were being transferred to other cities. I know there were some transfers, but I have not been able to get a definitive answer as to how many. From talking to a few people familiar with such transfers generally, it is doubtful any transfers had a meaningful impact on the numbers.