By Bill King
During CDC Weeks 29 & 30 (ending 7/18 and 7/25) Texas experienced its highest level of COVID-19 fatalities since the outbreak with 846 and 1020 in each week, respectively. A disproportionate number of the fatalities are occurring in south Texas. Hidalgo County, which only comprises 3% of the state’s population, had 18% of the fatalities in the state over the last two weeks.
For historical context, there are about 3,650 fatalities from all causes for each of these weeks in 2019. If all of fatalities reported as COVID related are incremental, i.e., they would not have occurred but for the COVID infection, fatalities for these weeks will run about 25% above normal. Previous annual variations in the number of fatalities for these weeks has been about 1%.
Despite the higher level of fatalities over the last two weeks, Texas still has one of the lowest per capita fatalities rates in U.S. (16.34 per 100,000), ranking 32th overall and 19th among the twenty most populous states. The Texas per capita rate is about 40% of the national average.
A hopeful sign is that new cases and the positivity rate both plateaued during the period and began to trend lower. Of course, it remains to be seen if that trend will continue.
Texas continues to ramp up testing, averaging 66,000 during the last week. Total tests conducted in Texas are now equal to 11% of the state’s population. However, that still lags far behind New York (28%), California (18%) and Florida (15%).
Hospitalizations trended up during the first 10 days (10,083 – 10,893). However, on July 23rd there was a change in the reporting procedures which resulted in a less than complete census for the last three days. However, looking at some regional data, it appears both general hospital bed and ICU usage has also plateaued and begun to slightly decline. A good place to review the status of hospitals in the Houston region is Southeast Regional Advisory Council website.