Texas COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases are both at levels not seen since August

ByThe Texas Tribune Staff KTRK logo
Monday, October 26, 2020
El Paso's dire COVID-19 situation
With hospitals nearing capacity, El Paso medical facilities are looking to transport COVID-19 patients to other hospitals. Here's a look at their plan.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and the 7-day average of new cases have both risen more than 50% in October, and the state is sending emergency medical personnel and supplies to El Paso. Experts blame social events like birthday parties and game day gatherings, and they say there is widespread fatigue for following stringent public health guidelines.

RELATED: Large COVID-19 study in Texas targets antibodies

How we got here: Under Abbott's plan to revive the economy, businesses started reopening in May. But Abbott paused further reopening plans and scaled back others in June, telling one TV station he regretted reopening bars too quickly.

SEE ALSO: 'Mom code': Parents reportedly avoid testing kids to keep Utah COVID-19 numbers artificially low

As hospitalizations increased dramatically in June and July, Abbott issued a statewide mandate requiring most Texans to wear masks in public spaces, which experts say may have led to a plateauing of cases and hospitalization levels. In September, the numbers dropped to levels not seen since June, leading Abbott to loosen restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses. Recently, the numbers have increased again, leading experts to worry the state is headed toward another surge.

As the pandemic continues to impact Houston and the world, here's what we know about the virus and the efforts to fight it.

Where are most of the cases in Texas?

As of Oct. 24, the state has reported 858,071 cases in 253 counties since the pandemic began. The Tribune is measuring both the number of cases in each county and the rate of cases per 1,000 residents.

Cases per 1,000 residents

The rate of cases per 1,000 residents is high in the Panhandle's Moore County, where early outbreaks were tied to a meatpacking plant, and in counties with state prisons such as Walker and Jones. South Texas and the Coastal Bend emerged as hot spots in July, and counties with college towns, like Lubbock and Brazos, saw cases surge as students returned to campus in late August.

How many people are in the hospital?

On Oct. 24, there were at least 4,995 hospitalized patients in Texas with confirmed coronavirus infections. This data does not account for people who are hospitalized but have not gotten a positive test, and the Texas Department of State Health Services says some hospitals may be missing from the daily counts.

These numbers do not include beds at psychiatric hospitals or other psychiatric facilities, according to DSHS. They do include psychiatric and pediatric beds at general hospitals, and pediatric beds at children's hospitals.

On Oct. 24, the state reported 12,259 available staffed hospital beds, including 1,037 available staffed ICU beds statewide. COVID-19 patients currently occupy 7.5% of total hospital beds.

How many people have died?

The first death linked to the coronavirus in Texas occurred March 16 in Matagorda County. As of Oct. 24, 17,375 people who tested positive for the virus have died.

On July 27, DSHS began reporting deaths based on death certificates that state the cause of death as COVID-19 instead of relying on counts released by local and regional health departments. On that date, the state added more than 400 previously unreported deaths to the cumulative total. This does not include the deaths of people with COVID-19 who died of an unrelated cause. Death certificates are required by law to be filed within 10 days.

Because of this change, it's impossible to compare the rate of deaths before and after July 27.

Experts say the official state death toll is likely an undercount.

Read more of this story and see the COVID-19 data compiled by our partners at The Texas Tribune.

What else should I know about this data?

These numbers come from the Texas Department of State Health Services, which typically updates statewide case counts by 4 p.m. each day. The data is from the same morning, and it may lag behind other local news reports.

RELATED: US sets coronavirus infection record; deaths near 224,000

In order to publish data quickly, the state has to bypass what is normally a monthslong process of reviewing the COVID-19 data and performing quality checks before publishing. That's why all of these numbers and information are provisional and subject to change.

The state's data includes cases from federal immigration detention centers, federal prisons and starting in mid-May, some state prisons. It does not include cases reported at military bases.

From March 13 through March 24, the Tribune added cases from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where hundreds of American evacuees from China and cruise ships were quarantined.

Those case counts came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Carla Astudillo, Mandi Cai, Darla Cameron, Chris Essig, Anna Novak, Emily Albracht and Alexa Ura contributed to this report.

Previously, The Texas Tribune incorrectly stated our formula for calculating the average daily positivity rate. This tracker also included incorrect numbers for cumulative statewide tests on Sept. 14, 15 and 16. On Sept. 14, 15 and 16 there had been 5,671,966, 5,729,318 and 5,780,424 tests, not 5,637,040, 5,671,966 and 5,729,318 tests, respectively. In addition, the tracker included an incorrect number of total cases on Sept. 21 because of a Department of State Health Services error in reporting Bexar County's backlogged cases. There were 1,742 cases statewide, not 1,732, and 2,078 backlogged cases in Bexar County, not 2,088. The tracker also included the incorrect number of cumulative cases and daily cases statewide on Oct. 13 because the state overreported the number of cases in Brazoria County by 159. There had been 800,256 cumulative cases, not 800,415, and 5,050 daily cases statewide, not 5,209. These have been corrected.

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