The Texas Tribune is using daily data from the Texas Department of State Health Services to track coronavirus vaccinations, cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The state data comes from city and county health departments, hospitals, laboratories and vaccine providers. It may not represent all cases of the disease given limited testing.
What you should know:
- On April 5: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have continued to decline since January, when the virus’s outbreak was at its worst. The number of patients hospitalized in the state is now at its lowest point since June.
- Latest on vaccines: Everyone age 16 and older is now eligible for the vaccine in Texas, regardless of occupation or health status. But some question whether the state — where demand still far outpaces supply, in spite of anticipated increases in dose allotments — is ready to open the floodgates when some more vulnerable residents have still not been vaccinated.
- How we got here: Texas started reopening businesses in May. The first big wave of cases, hospitalizations and deaths followed in June and July. In response, Abbott issued a statewide mandate requiring most Texans to wear masks in public spaces. By September, the numbers had improved and the governor loosened restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses in regions of the state with steady hospitalization levels.
- Hospitalizations jumped again during the winter holiday season, culminating in the state’s worst outbreak in January. Average new cases and hospitalizations have decreased since then, and Abbott rescinded the mask mandate in March.
How many Texans have been vaccinated?
As of April 4, 12.5 million doses have been administered — 8.2 million people have received at least one dose and 4.7 million people, or 16.1% of Texas’ population, are fully vaccinated.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose. The state is counting people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as fully vaccinated. They are also included with the people who have received at least one dose.
Texas received its first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14. Starting March 29, everyone age 16 and older, regardless of occupation or health status, is eligible for the vaccine.
Still, many Texans are facing challenges trying to book a vaccine appointment through a process that favors people who have easy access to the internet and transportation. Elderly residents are instead resorting to calling local pharmacies or relying on friends, family or networks of volunteers to find them an appointment.
Health experts estimate 75% to 90% of Texans would need to achieve immunity to COVID-19 to reach herd immunity, which would mean vaccinating at least 22 million people, or nearly 100% of adults in the state. Scientists aren’t sure how long immunity lasts for people who were previously infected, making it unclear how much they contribute to herd immunity.
“Whether it achieves herd immunity or not, we’ve got to vaccinate as many people as possible in a critical period of time to save lives,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, a virologist at Baylor College of Medicine.
Health experts estimate 75% to 90% of Texans need to achieve immunity to COVID-19 to reach herd immunity. As of April 4, about 16.1% of Texas’ 29 million people have been fully vaccinated. One obstacle is vaccines are not approved for children younger than 16, who make up about 23% of the population.
State health officials have rolled out vaccine hubs to help administer shots, although many areas don’t have one. Some Texans, particularly in far-flung parts of the state, have resorted to traveling hundreds of miles away from their homes to get immunized.
How many people are in the hospital?
On April 5, there were at least 2,772 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.
On April 5, the state reported 14,110 available staffed hospital beds, including 1,129 available staffed ICU beds statewide. COVID-19 patients currently occupy 4.3% of total hospital beds.
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.
How many people have died?
The first death linked to the coronavirus in Texas occurred March 15, 2020, in Matagorda County. As of April 5, 47,749 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.
How have the number of cases increased each day?
For most of the pandemic, the state only reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus based on criteria published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Confirmed cases are detected using molecular tests, such as PCR tests, which are taken with a nasal swab and are highly accurate according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In November, the state started reporting probable cases detected through rapid-result antigen tests, which are taken by nasal or throat swab like other viral tests, but the results are much faster and less accurate. These cases can also be detected through other means. Before the state reported probable cases separately, probable cases that were accidentally included in cumulative case counts were removed.
The number of new cases reported drops on weekends, when labs are less likely to report new data to the state.
So far, there are 390,186 known probable cases in 224 counties, including 53 newly reported cases on April 5. The state has reported daily probable cases, which can be detected through antigen tests, dating back to November. A total of 30 counties, including Harris, Travis, and El Paso, are not reporting probable cases.
How has the positivity rate changed?
The seven-day average positivity rate is calculated by dividing the average of confirmed cases by the average of molecular tests conducted over the last seven days. This shows how the situation has changed over time by de-emphasizing daily swings.
States where the rates are over 10% are in the “red zone,” according to the The White House Coronavirus Task Force. Texas doubled that mark in July before it dropped in August. The rate started exceeding 10% again in October before dropping below in late February.
DSHS released another positivity rate based only on rapid-result antigen tests on Dec. 11. As of April 4, the rate was 2.2% out of 3.4 million tests.
How many people have been tested?
As of April 4, Texas has administered 26.1 million tests for the coronavirus since March 2020. We do not know the number of Texans who have gotten a test because some people are tested more than once. The state’s tally also does not include pending tests.
State officials are separately reporting the number of antibody tests, which detect whether someone was previously infected. Standard viral tests like molecular and antigen tests determine whether someone currently has the virus.
Testing data is typically reported a day late.
How is this impacting Texans of color?
Some regions of the state with the highest mortality rates are predominantly Hispanic. Hidalgo and Cameron counties, both along the state’s southern border, have seen death tolls that rival larger and more urban parts of the state such as Dallas and San Antonio. In El Paso County, thousands of residents have now died of COVID since the pandemic began, placing El Paso far ahead of other major urban counties in deaths per 1,000 residents.
Similarly, case data gathered earlier in the pandemic in various parts of the state shows the disproportionate impact of the virus on black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Over the summer, the areas with the highest positivity rates in Harris County were predominantly Hispanic, according to a UTHealth School of Public Health analysis. In Dallas County, lower-income black communities also have reported some of the highest positivity rates.
A Texas Tribune analysis showed the distribution of the vaccine also is unequal. As of March, white Texans are being vaccinated at nearly twice the rate of Hispanic Texans and more than six times the rate of black Texans, according to state data.
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.
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, 2020, 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.
Texas’ population estimate is from the Census Bureau’s 2019 one-year American Community Survey. Population estimates for the state’s counties are from the 2019 five-year survey, which captures smaller counties.
This story was first published at https://www.texastribune.org by The Texas Tribune. This story has been edited for length. The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.