The number of coronavirus cases in Texas is climbing again, with the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations seen in the regions covering the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex and El Paso.
While the number of reported hospitalizations in the DFW area is the highest in the state and is nearly as high as the peak seen in July, the rise in El Paso has been more drastic.
Statewide, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) reported that 6,800 patients infected with the virus were hospitalized as of Wednesday — slightly above 10 percent of the state’s hospital capacity.
In the DFW Trauma Service Area (TSA), 1,900 individuals are hospitalized, about 12 percent of hospital capacity.
El Paso’s total hospitalizations are slightly lower at around 1,000 patients, but in the less densely populated part of the state, that makes up over 40 percent of hospital capacity.
With the rise of cases in El Paso, Governor Greg Abbott has repeatedly sent resources to the city.
In late October, the El Paso county judge issued a new shelter-in-place order and curfew, which was challenged in courts by local business owners and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, though the Texas Supreme Court declined to provide emergency relief this week.
DSHS data is now reporting that the number of active cases in El Paso County (with an estimated population of 850,000) has superseded the current number of active cases in Harris County (with an estimated population of 4.7 million), with the former at 29,500 and the latter at 29,000.
While DSHS reports that there has been a rise in active cases for Harris County since dropping down to 12,000 in September, the rise in hospitalizations for the Houston TSA has been far less drastic.
Around 500 coronavirus patients in the Houston area were hospitalized in late September, and now there are around 750 patients hospitalized — the third highest out of every region in the state.
During the surge of cases in June and July, the Houston region accounted for the largest share of cases, with a high of nearly 3,000 patients hospitalized.
When asked if he was considering walking back the reopening of businesses in late October, Governor Greg Abbott said that there are “guardrails that are already in place” to respond to the rising number of cases based on region.
“Just because people are testing positive for COVID, that in and of itself is not a sign of danger,” said Abbott. “A sign of danger is when we have increased hospitalizations.”
Abbott pointed to his most recent executive order, which includes a trigger to reduce reopening capacity limits from 75 to 50 percent in TSAs where coronavirus cases account for more than 15 percent of hospital capacity.
Any bars reopened in those regions would also be required to close.
To date, only three regions have exceeded that limit: El Paso, Amarillo, and Lubbock.
Five other TSAs — DFW, Paris, Longview, Midland/Odessa, and Waco — have recently risen to above coronavirus patients exceeding 10 percent of hospital capacity.
The Laredo TSA is also near the 15 percent threshold but has been trending downward more recently than the other regions.
A map of the TSAs and lists of counties that they include can be found here.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.