November 29, 2020

Update on Texas COVID Stats – Peak or Holiday Head Fake?

Update on Texas COVID Stats – Peak or Holiday Head Fake?

All stats for COVID in Texas for the last two weeks (ending November 28) worsened.  However, the increase in hospitalizations deaccelerated over the period and have actually declined in the last few days.  But we will have to see whether this really represents a peak in hospitalizations as we saw in the summer or is some anomaly in the numbers because of the holiday week.


Total hospitalizations and ICU bed usage were both up by a little over 20% for the two-week period.  However, most of that increase occurred in the first week.  The second week was almost flat. (See Note 1.)

The regional pattern in hospitalizations changed significantly during the last two weeks as the conditions eased in most of the recent hotspots.  El Paso, for example, was down 11% over the last two weeks and 21% from its peak.  Most of north Texas was flat or slightly down.  Over 60% of the increase occurred in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas-Ft. Worth.


Average daily reported fatalities rose from 103 to 131.  The second week was lower than the first (142 vs. 120) which does not really square the hospitalization numbers.  I suspect the fatalities in the second week were understated because of the holiday.  Based on the historical ratio between hospitalizations and fatalities, reported fatalities are probably headed toward the 160-180 per day range.

This is an update on the State’s actual date of death analysis.  The highest single day fatality total in the recent wave was 123 on November 10.  Those numbers will track up some as more death certificates are filed but will clearly still be well below the summer levels.

Testing Results

Daily test results for the two-week period increased by 33% and positive test results by 30%.  So, if we can rely on the testing data coming from the State, nearly all of the increase in “new cases” in Texas for the last two weeks was the result of increased testing.  The number of tests reported each day, and the calculated positivity rate has swung widely day-to-day.  The average calculated positivity was unchanged at 9.5%.  The State’s “date of specimen collection” positivity decreased over the period from 12.5% to 10.8%.


The flattening of the hospitalizations and the fact that positive test results barely outran the increase in testing are nascent signs that the latest COVID wave in Texas may have peaked.  But there is so much noise in the data, especially the potential effects of holiday reporting disruptions, the near term is very uncertain.  We should have a clearer idea when we get past any potential holiday reporting issues.


Note 1 – I have been taking the hospitalization counts pretty much at face value.  However, I am seeing some inconsistencies between the State’s data and local reports and some odd daily fluctuations that seem unlikely.  The differences are relatively minor, but it appears the hospitalization data for Texas may not be as pristine as I had been assuming.

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