Hospitalization data released from the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston shows that coronavirus hospitalizations and testing positive rates in the state’s most populous city are on a downward trend.
During the surge of hospitalizations in June and July, TMC had to configure their intensive care (ICU) beds and staffing to accommodate for the influx of cases, moving from “non-pandemic configurations” of Phase 1 into Phase 2 plans.
Now, they report that while Phase 1 ICU beds are completely full — even in non-pandemic situations, ICU capacity is usually near full capacity — and Phase 2 beds are 23 percent full, bed usage is on a downward trend.
“At our current growth rate in ICU occupancy, we will not move into Phase 3 within two weeks,” TMC reports.
Average daily new hospitalizations peaked during the first week of July, with about 360 new patients daily.
As of July 25, average daily new hospitalizations are at 275 and continuing downward at a -1.5 percent growth rate.
The downward trend for COVID-19 patients in med-surg beds is even sharper, at a reported -2.5 percent growth rate.
Similarly, positivity rates from hospitals in the TMC system peaked to a high of 23 percent on July 9, but have been steadily declining since.
As of Saturday, the 7-day average positive rate was 17.1 percent.
Since results for coronavirus tests are often delayed by seven to 10 days, the positive rate of people being tested today may be significantly lower, but that might not be seen for another week.
Though the reported hospitalizations and positive rates are declining, the number of reported deaths is increasing.
However, as The Texan previously investigated, the actual reporting of deaths is being delayed due to paperwork processing by days, weeks, or even months.
This is most clearly seen in Houston, where the Houston Health Department publishes detailed information about fatalities that includes the date of deaths.
When comparing the published date of deaths in Houston with the reported deaths by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), the state-reported trends for Harris County — of which Houston accounts for about 60 percent — lag behind by about two to four weeks.
Because of the vast delay in reporting deaths, the declining hospitalizations and positive rate is likely a better indicator of the current state of the virus in Houston.
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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.