For the last two weeks (ending February 20), all metrics have indicated that COVID infections in Texas are continuing to decline at a rapid pace. However, some of the data may not be reliable from the second week because of the ice storm.
Hospitalizations and ICU bed usage dropped another 24% and 20%, respectively, during the last two weeks. Hospitalizations have fallen by nearly half since their peak on January 12. The little kink you see in last few days appears to be a reporting issue in the Houston region which overstated the drop one day but was corrected on the following day.
All of Texas’ twenty-two reporting regions saw decreases over the last two weeks. The largest decline was in Laredo, which had recently had a bad outbreak. The northern and western parts of the State also had large decreases again with more modest declines in the metropolitan regions.
Reported fatalities plummeted over the last two weeks, dropping from a daily average of 312 to 196. However, the lion’s share of the drop came in the second week, when reporting was almost certainly disrupted by the ice storm. I think we will see that number track back up over the next week or so as reporting catches up after the storm. However, there is no question that fatality rates are steadily dropping, which is exactly what we should expect to see with a growing portion of our seniors being vaccinated.
Texans continue to get vaccinated at a steady pace. As of Saturday, the CDC reported that over 15% of all Texans had received at least one dose and about 5% are now fully vaccinated. Texas still ranks second among the states in total doses administered but is falling well behind on a per capita basis.
One reason Texas has had a lackluster performance on a per capita basis is that it continues to be shorted on the number of vaccines it is receiving from the federal government. After the disruptions last week, Texas is now over 900,000 doses below what it would have if it had received the national per capita average. The District of Columbia has received 65% more vaccines on a per capita basis than Texas. I cannot understand why our elected officials are not screaming bloody murder about this.
With disruptions from the ice storm, Texas’ testing data was even more erratic than normal last week. Total test results were down by 37% and positive test results declined by 56%. The COVID Tracking Project’s daily “new case” metric has dropped from a high of nearly 23,000 to less than 5,000 yesterday. But I would be cautious about drawing any conclusions from this data until we see what happens after the ice storm disruptions subside.
The most recent run of the IHME has all of the indicators in Texas gradually declining to very low levels by the end of May. While the model keeps lowering its projections, the actual numbers are falling faster. Once we are caught up on reporting from the ice storm, perhaps the numbers will line up better with their model.
More experts are voicing the opinion that the cumulative effect of natural immunity from infections and vaccinations is really beginning to impede the virus’ ability to spread. In this podcast, Paul Offit, the doctor who discovered the rotavirus vaccine and sits on the FDA’s outside vaccine review panel, discusses how we should not be seeing a drop like this during the height of the winter and concludes that wide-spread immunity is the only plausible explanation (skip forward to ~00:30).
There is still some concern about the variants but the numbers are also rapidly coming down in the countries where they were prevalent. While it is clearly too soon to sound the all-clear, the metrics in Texas are very encouraging, as indeed they are throughout the world.