For the last two weeks (ending April 3), Texas continued to see a steadily decline in all COVID metrics.
Hospitalizations and ICU bed usage for the last two weeks dropped by 22% (3,620→2,480) and 18% (1,050→861), respectively. These are the lowest levels since June 2020 and are now down 80% from their peak on January 12.
The rate of the decline in hospitalizations has slowed slightly, dipping from 2.1% to 1.7%. All of Texas’ 22 reporting regions saw decreases over the last two weeks. The metropolitan areas saw the largest decreases. Houston’s hospitalizations have been a bit of a “two-steps-forward-one-step back” but the trend is clear.
The seven-day average for reported fatalities dropped from 127 to 89. This is the lowest level since early November.
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 50-60 range. If so, that would mean that COVID is currently involved in about 10% of all daily fatalities in Texas.
The latest run of the IHME model still shows fatalities continuing to decline over the next three months, falling to under 10 by the end of June. Its “worst case” scenario has been revised to show fatalities leveling off at their current level through mid-May and falling to about 30 fatalities daily by the end of June.
The per capita fatality rate in Texas continues to run slightly below the national average (166 per 100,000 vs. 169 per 100,000).
At over 12 million doses, Texas has vaccinated more of its citizens than any other state except California. But it continues to lag on a per capita basis, consistently ranking in the bottom quartile. About 18.3% of the over 18-population and 53.6% of the over-65 population has been fully vaccinated. That compares with 23.1% and 54.7% nationally for those two groups.
Vaccine deliveries to Texas have improved somewhat but it is still getting significantly shorted compared to California, New York, Florida, and, of course, the District of Columbia.
The number of tests held steady in Texas over the last two weeks at about 61,000 tests per day. The seven-day average of “new cases” fell by a third, moving from 3,984 to 2,905. The calculated positivity rate for the two-week period dropped to 5.4%, which has now come more in line with the State’s positivity rate based on the date of specimen at just over 5%.
It has now been a little over three 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, contrary to Beto O’Rourke’s claim that the orders were a “death warrant” for Texans.1 I think the lack of any change in the epidemic’s trajectory contributes to a growing body of data that suggests that all of the various non-pharmacological interventions probably had less effect on outcomes than we have been lead to believe.
The last run of the IHME model as of April 1, which presumably takes into account Abbott’s recensions, has daily new cases currently at about 10,000 but falling to under 300 by the end of June.2 IHME significantly lowered its worst-case projection for Texas, now showing a somewhat slower decline through the spring but still getting down to 300 cases by the end of June.3
There are still a lot of public health officials warning about a fourth wave and there are some places in the country where the drop in the COVID metrics has plateaued or are even increasing somewhat. But with the news that the vaccines appear to greatly reduce transmission, I do not see how the U.S. or Texas will have a significant new wave of COVID cases.
Note 1 – O’Rourke has since apparently deleted the tweet cited in the MSNBC story.
Note 2 – It is important to keep in mind that the IHME model attempts to predict all COVID cases and not get those discovered by testing. That is why you see such a stark difference between reported new cases (~3,000) and IHME current estimate of about 10,000. We have always known that testing was discovering a relatively small percentage of all infections because so many are asymptomatic and have such mild symptoms that the infected person never goes for testing. Earlier in the pandemic many believed the actual infections are 10X those found in testing. The IHME’s current model suggests they now think that is down to about 3X. Note 3 – In my last report I blasted IHME’s worst case scenario as being based on vaccinated individuals returning to life before the pandemic. Since then, IHME has clarified its assumptions of the worst case and it basically assumes that most precautions are largely dropped.