1 in 5 hospital beds in Texas are now occupied by COVID-19 patients


A rendering of coronavirus via the CDC.

(TEXAS TRIBUNE) – The Texas Tribune is using data from the Texas Department of State Health Services to track how many people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Texas each day. The state data comes from 57 city and county health departments, about 600 hospitals and 340 laboratories and the state vital records registration. It may not represent all cases of the disease given limited testing.

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Where are most of the cases in Texas?

As of Jan. 9, the state has reported 1,703,634 confirmed cases in 254 counties and 234,917 probable cases in 223 counties since the pandemic began. Confirmed cases are detected through more accurate molecular tests, while probable cases are detected through rapid-result antigen tests.

These totals may differ from what county and city health departments report. The Tribune is measuring both the number of cases in each county and the rate of cases per 1,000 residents in the last two weeks.

New confirmed and probable cases reported in the last two weeks

The number of cases reported in the last two weeks shows where outbreaks are occurring. Because some counties aren’t reporting probable cases, not all counties are comparable to one another.

How many people are in the hospital?

On Jan. 9, there were at least 13,935 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.

Total current hospitalizations

The state says roughly 2% to 6% of Texas hospitals do not report hospitalizations data each day. The average number of hospitalizations reported over the past seven days shows how the situation has changed over time by de-emphasizing daily swings.

On Jan. 9, the state reported 10,259 available staffed hospital beds, including 680 available staffed ICU beds statewide. COVID-19 patients currently occupy 20.5% of total hospital beds.

ICU beds available statewide

On April 9, the state started reporting the number of intensive care unit, or ICU, beds available in Texas hospitals. These specialized beds cater to patients with the most life-threatening conditions and include equipment such as ventilators and heart rate monitors. ICU units also have staff who are trained to care for the critically ill.

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 16 in Matagorda County. As of Jan. 929,691 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.

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.

DSHS released another positivity rate based only on rapid-result antigen tests on Dec. 11. As of Jan. 8, the rate was 12.93% out of 1,326,296 tests.

How many people have been tested?

As of Jan. 8, Texas has administered at least 16,816,301 tests for the coronavirus since March. 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.

Coronavirus test results reported to the state each day

The average number of tests reported over the past seven days shows how the situation has changed over time by de-emphasizing daily swings.

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 many Texans have been vaccinated?

Texas received its first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14. Initially, only front-line health care workers and residents and staff members of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities — around 1.9 million people — were eligible for vaccination. But on Dec. 23, state health officials announced that providers should also begin vaccinating people in the next tier of eligibility, which includes Texans 65 and older and people age 16 and older with a qualifying health condition, even though vaccine doses were in short supply.

Because of reporting delays and errors in the database that providers use to log vaccination information, the data that the state has published on how many vaccinations have been administered is not timely.

The state’s initial allocation of 1.2 million doses had been shipped by Jan. 3, according to state health officials. Another 325,000 doses were expected to ship the first week of January.

On Jan. 7, state officials announced about 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines would be shipped the following week with most going to large vaccination “hubs” capable of vaccinating up to 100,000 people.

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 like Dallas and San Antonio. In El Paso County, more than 1,500 residents have 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 have also reported some of the highest positivity rates.

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 centersfederal 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.

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

Correction: The tracker incorrectly said on Dec. 23 the average number of people who reportedly died from coronavirus within the previous seven days was at its highest since July. It was at its highest since August. Also due to an editing error, the Nov. 21 version of this tracker included incorrect death counts for 19 counties: El Paso has 949 deaths, not 106; Ellis has 106 deaths, not 949; Deaf Smith has 36 deaths, not 44; Delta has one death, not 36; Denton has 200 deaths, not one; DeWitt has 44 deaths, not 200; La Salle has 14 deaths, not 10; Lamar has 66 deaths, not 14; Lamb has 35 deaths, not 66; Lampasas has 10 deaths, not 35; Madison has 12 deaths, not two; Marion has 15 deaths, not 59; Martin has 176 deaths, not 169; Mason has two deaths, not six; Matagorda has 59 deaths, not 175; Maverick has 169 deaths, not one; McCullouch has six deaths, not 12; McLennan has 175 deaths, not 15 and McMullen has one death, not 7.

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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