For the last two weeks (ending May 1), COVID statistics in Texas declined at an uneven pace.
In the second week, hospitalizations began to fall again after being stalled at approximately 2,900 for three weeks. By the end of the two-week period hospitalizations were down by 10% (2,929→2,648). ICU bed usage saw a similar pattern but only declined 6% (883→827).
Most of the improvement in hospitalizations occurred in the urban areas. About half of Texas’ reporting regions had slight increases. All of these were outside the large metropolitan regions. The Houston region has seen a steady decline in hospitalizations, but they are still well above the lows of last summer.
Reported fatalities for the two-week period fell from 848 to 705 (-17%). Like hospitalizations, the seven-day average for reported fatalities stalled during the first week and then began to decline again in the second week, ultimately dropping from 55 to 46 (-14%). That is about half the rate of decline in the previous two weeks.
The state’s actual date of death analysis, which compensates for the reporting delays, is also showing that the rate of decline has slowed. Actual daily deaths are probably still in the 30-40 range.
The latest run of the IHME model agrees with that 30-40 range and is predicting a gradual decline through summer, falling to nearly zero by the end of July. There is now virtually no difference in its base case, “worst case” and “universal mask” scenarios with respect to fatalities.
Texas continues to trail most of the rest of the country on vaccinations. About 35% of the over 18-population has been fully vaccinated, compared to a national average of 39%.
In the “too-good-to-be-true” category, I reported to you last time that Texas was over-performing most of the country on its over-65 vaccinations. However, shortly thereafter, the CDC discovered it was reporting the number of over-65 with one dose as being fully vaccinated for several states. After that adjustment was made, Texas’ over-65 rate dropped to the same range as its overall vaccination numbers, with the percentage of over-65 Texans fully vaccinated slightly lagging the national average.
Surprisingly, the number of COVID tests conducted in Texas increased over the last two weeks, from about 53,000 to 63,000 tests per day. The seven-day average of “new cases” has stalled at about 3,000 per day. The calculated positivity rate and State’s positivity rate based on the date of specimen have both leveled out in the 5-6% range.
It has now been about two months since Governor Abbott eliminated the mask mandate and loosened restrictions. Certainly, the apocalyptic predictions of Democratic partisans like Beto O’Rourke’s claim that Abbott’s order was a “death warrant,” or even Lina Hidalgo’s more measured prediction that the order would “reverse the progress” that had been made to that point, have not come to pass. A fairer question would be whether it has slowed the decline. Of course, there is no way to know whether the order had any effect because we only live on one timeline. But it is clear that Abbott has escaped any political fallout that would have undoubtedly been leveled if there had been a dramatic increase in infections.
The IHME model now shows new infections at about 9,800. If that is accurate, testing is discovering about a third of all cases. That is a pretty significant increase in infections from their last run. But it is still predicting that cases will steadily fall to about 300 per day by the end of July.
It appears that after about a three-week stall, the combination of naturally-acquired immunity and the vaccines have once again gotten the upper hand over reduced containment measures and whatever effect the variants may be having. At this point there are not any public health officials still warning about a fourth wave. Instead, the discussion has moved on to how fast we will “return to normal.”
When you read the history of the Spanish Flu pandemic it is remarkable how quickly the epidemic phase ended, and that was without a vaccine. I think we are going to see the same rapid improvement over the next couple of months. After the epidemic phase of the Spanish Flu passed, there were several subsequent, but less severe, outbreaks. Hopefully, the vaccines will prevent that from happening this time. Because the course of COIVD appears to have stabilized, I will not report again on the Texas numbers until the end of May unless there is some significant change in the trajectory. I will continue to post data periodically on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.