Gov. Abbott’s two metrics for reopening — the positive rate and hospitalizations — keep rising

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The State of Texas has officially reported more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 statewide, and the rate of new cases is increasing.

When Gov. Abbott announced that Texas would start reopening on May 1, he pointed to two key metrics that he was keeping an eye on: the state’s positive rate — the percent of tests that return positive results — and the number of hospitalizations.

Since then, both metrics have increased, but there are no signs of slowing the reopening of businesses. Instead, capacity at restaurants was increased to 75% on June 12, and less than a week later, the Texas Education Agency announced schools would resume in-person classes in the fall.

Meanwhile, the state’s positive rate has reached its highest level in two months, and the number of Texans hospitalized with COVID-19 has hit a record high for eight days in a row. Both metrics have increased dramatically in Phase III of reopening, in particular.

During the stay home order, which took effect April 2, Texas was seeing an average of 831 new cases each day. At the same time, the state was reporting about 9,700 test results each day. That meant Texas had a positive rate of around 8.5%.

During Phase I and II of reopening, the average number of cases increased, to around 1,100 cases each day. But encouragingly, the positive rate dropped at the same time — thanks to increased testing. During Phase I, Texas’ positive rate was 6.15%. That slipped to 5.27% during Phase II.

Since then, Texas has seen a dramatic spike in cases. On June 3, when Phase III took effect, the state was averaging 1,479 cases each day. Now, Texas is seeing an average of 2,593 cases a day. The average throughout Phase III has been 2,080 new cases each day.

The jump in cases is partly due to the fact that Texas is testing more people. In Phase I, the state reported an average of 18,827 tests each day. That figure increased to 22,276 in Phase II, and so far in Phase III, the average is 26,072 tests per day.

But at the same time, the positive rate has jumped to 7.98% during Phase III.

More specifically, the seven-day positive rate as of June 19 was 8.53%, the highest level since April 22. On June 18, the daily positive rate was a whopping 21.74%.

Another way to look at it is to compare the total number of new cases during both Phase II and III.

Phase II was in effect from May 18 through June 2, a total of 16 days. As of June 19, the state has released 16 days worth of test data during Phase III, so the two phases are comparable in length.

Despite this, Phase III has seen almost 15,000 more new cases than Phase II — 33,283 compared to 18,784. Again, this is partly due to testing — Phase III has averaged almost 4,000 more tests each day than Phase II — but the primary cause for the much higher total is the increased positive rate.

Had the positive rate remained at 5.27%, Phase III would have had 21,985 new cases so far. Instead, we’ve had 33,283 cases.

The state’s first cases were reported on March 9. Since then, a total of 103,305 cases have been reported by the Department of State Health Services, and the rate of new cases is increasing.

It took 32 days for Texas to hit 10,000 cases, then 12 days to hit 20,000. More recently, Texas jumped from 90,000 to 100,000 cases in just three days.

The governor’s second metric — hospitalizations — has also increased significantly during Phase III.

During the stay home order, there were 1,497 Texans hospitalized due to COVID-19 on any given day. In Phase I and II, that number was more than 1,600. The average so far during Phase III is more than 2,200 people in hospital each day.

June 19 saw a new record high number of COVID-19 hospitalizations for the eighth day in a row, with 3,148. It was the first time Texas had reported more than 3,000 in a single day.

In a press conference on June 16, Gov. Abbott said despite the increasing totals, the numbers are manageable, and there are still plenty of hospital beds available. As of June 19, state numbers show there are 13,591 unoccupied hospital beds across the state.

Still, Abbott has continued to stress the importance of wearing a mask and practicing social distancing as Texas continues along its plan to reopen the economy.

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