AUSTIN (KXAN) — For more than two years, KXAN has been tracking COVID data across Texas daily. We wanted to break out some of the key metrics to show how COVID is currently impacting our state.
“Texas, as a whole, is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” Lara Anton, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), said in a statement to KXAN. “This is similar to what has been seen all across the United States.”
DSHS is the agency that reports updated COVID data each day.
“With cases and hospitalizations on the rise in Texas, now is a good time to make sure you are up-to-date with your COVID vaccines,” Anton said. “If you haven’t received your initial vaccine series, or you are eligible for a first or second booster and still haven’t gotten it, now is a great time to get that done.”
The good news
In February 2022, the CDC began weekly updates determining the “COVID Community Level” in each county nationwide. The three levels — high, medium and low — show how prevalent COVID-19 is in each county, by looking at hospitalization and case data. The data is updated weekly.
As of June 2, the most recently-available data, only 20 of the state’s 254 counties are in the medium category for COVID risk, including Caldwell County. There are no counties currently at high risk.
The not-so-good news
While the COVID risk remains in the low category for much of the state, several key metrics are on the upswing. Most notably, the molecular positive rate — the percent of PCR tests that return a positive result — has surpassed the peak we saw during the delta variant surge last summer.
The 7-day average positive rate is currently 19.44%, compared to the delta surge peak of 18.73%. The chart below shows a steady increase in the positive rate since the start of April.
The current surge in the positive rate is still nowhere near what we saw during the omicron surge last winter, when more than a third of all tests were returning positive results.
Meanwhile, the number of new cases reported each day is also rising. Texas is currently reporting an average of 4,798 new confirmed cases every day. That’s the highest seven-day average since Feb. 22. To be considered a “confirmed case,” a person has to test positive using a molecular/PCR test. A positive result on an antigen/rapid test would be considered a “probable case.”
The chart above shows the number of new confirmed cases reported each day. Our current upswing has been much slower than previous surges. The greater availability of at-home tests may explain some of that. When people take a COVID test at home, it’s unlikely they’ll report the results to the health department.
“We won’t have all of the tests reported to us the same way that we used to, so the absolute number of COVID-19 cases that we report on our website may look smaller during our current and future surges,” Anton said. “The positivity rate is also impacted by the number of tests that get reported to us. So the positivity rate may not be associated with the surges in the same way it was before. However, we can still look at the trends in cases and positivity rate to understand if the burden of COVID-19 is increasing or decreasing in our communities.”
A more stable metric of how COVID is impacting Texas is hospitalizations. Each day, DSHS reports the number of patients in Texas hospitals who have tested positive for COVID. While the number is still relatively low, our current total is the highest it’s been since March 24 and has been steadily increasing over the past couple of weeks.
“Hospitals are still reporting on how many COVID-19 patients are in their facility, and death certificate data is still available to help us understand the trends in COVID-19 fatalities,” Anton said. “The COVID-19 hospitalization and fatality reporting processes haven’t changed at all, and these allow us steady insight into how many people in our Texas communities are getting seriously ill from COVID-19.”
The number of new deaths reported each day is very low. In fact, we’re currently at levels not seen since the start of the pandemic, averaging about six new deaths reported statewide each day. Deaths are a lagging indicator though, so if cases and hospitalizations continue to tick upward, the number of deaths may follow in a few weeks.