During the month of June, COVID continued its gradual decline but its lingering effects are still being felt.
Over the month, total US hospitalizations fell from about 19,000 to 12,000. However, most of that improvement was in the first half of the month. In the second half, the rate of the decline slowed significantly. New hospitalizations over the last couple of weeks have stubbornly held in at just under 2,000 per day.
In Texas, the story on hospitalizations has not been quite as good. Total hospitalizations dropped from about 1650 to 1500 during the month. COVID ICU bed usage dropped from 550 to 500. Both really flatlined toward the end of the month.1
Fifteen of Texas’ twenty-two reporting regions saw decreases over the month of June. With the exception of Houston and Dallas, the changes were small. However, Dallas saw a significant increase (+84) while Houston had a significant decrease (-93). The border regions decreased generally in line with the rest of the State. So, the fear that the current surge in illegal crossings would spike COVID cases has not materialized so far.
The seven-day average for reported fatalities in the US declined from about 400 to slightly over 200 during June. Reported daily COVID fatalities are now about a third of what they just two months ago.
Texas’ date of death analysis also shows continuing decline throughout the month, dropping from just under 40 daily fatalities at the end of May, to under 20 by the end of the month.
The CDC Excess Death Analysis, which is based on actual date of death, shows that since mid-March, fatalities have been running between 103-106% of their model’s prediction. However, as I have mentioned before, I confirmed with the CDC that they did not adjust for population growth. As a result, anything about 103% or below should be considered normal. Also, there is an increasing number of reports by doctors of serious complications from people skipping doctor visits last year. A cardiologist in a recent Houston Methodist COVID townhall described a number of patients with serious heart issues as result of not being diagnosed timely last year. So, it seems likely that the effects of the lockdowns are contributing to some portion of the excess mortality we are seeing now.
Americans continue to be vaccinated, albeit at rate that is gradually declining. As of the end of June, about 47% of Americans had been fully vaccinated. More importantly, 78% of those over 65 had been.
Texas continues to be a laggard on overall vaccination rates. Only about 41% of Texans have been vaccinated. That puts Texas about two-thirds of the way down the list. Texas has done a little better on seniors at 74%.
Nationwide, testing has dropped from about a million tests per day to just over 700,000. The CDC’s daily “new case” count dropped from 18,000 to 12,500. However, that was slightly lower about ten days ago. The seven-day average for positivity is now below 2%.
Texas’ “new cases” have been bouncing around just over 1,000 per day. The State’s date of specimen testing ticked up during the month from just over 2% to 4.4%.
We are beginning to see an uncoupling of reported cases and hospitalizations from fatalities. I think this almost certainly is the result of the high rate of vaccines among seniors. Anecdotally, doctors are telling me that they are seeing younger patients, even in the hospitals. Of course, we know that younger individuals have a survival rate that is much, much higher than seniors.
The CDC estimates that approximately 115 million Americans have had COVID at this point. In addition, about 155 million have been vaccinated. That totals to about 80% of the US population. However, there is some significant overlap between the two. My guess is that something like about 70% of the population now has some immunity to the virus. That still leaves about 100 million people that have some susceptibility to the virus. That is plenty of people for COVID to hang around for some time as an endemic disease. I suspect we will need to get up to about 80% to finally send this beastie packing.
Despite all the media hype about the variants, especially the Delta variant, there is not much indication in the numbers that it is having a significant effect. Breakthrough infections after recovering from COVID or after being vaccinated are still rare. The variant may have contributed to the decline slowing down, but I think the concerns about it setting off another major wave are overblown.
I will not report again on the COVID numbers until the end of July unless there is some significant change in the trajectory. I will continue to post data periodically on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Note 1 – I noticed as I was preparing to send this out that Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, all reported fairly significant increases (89 total) in hospitals on July 1. That is a big change in one day and always makes me suspect of the numbers, but SETRAC’s report confirmed a bump in COVID hospitalizations in the last few days in Houston. So, we need to watch this next week.