Texas cases at highest level since January

Texas Tribune staff
covid graphic

With the COVID-19 Delta variant spreading, the number of hospitalized Texans has increased to levels not seen since February.

The latest

The state’s positivity rate, which is the percent of virus tests coming back positive, has increased to levels not seen since January. This indicates the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading rampantly and mostly among the unvaccinated. Hospitals across the state are seeing dramatic jumps in COVID-19 patients, straining an already overburdened health care system.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending vaccinated people start masking up again in indoor public spaces in “areas with substantial and high transmission,” which includes most of Texas. And some of the state’s largest counties are also asking everyone — vaccinated and unvaccinated — to wear masks again. However, Gov. Greg Abbott has said public schools and government entities cannot require masks, which has upset parents and teachers as students — most of whom are unvaccinated — prepare to return to in-person learning.

Meanwhile, 44% of all Texans are fully vaccinated, but the number of vaccines administered has been declining each month since April. New preliminary data released by DSHS shows 99.5% of COVID-related deaths in Texas were unvaccinated people between Feb. 8 and July 14. The percentage of fully vaccinated residents went from 3% to 42% in that time span.

Everyone age 12 and older is eligible for the vaccine in Texas, regardless of occupation or health status. Only the Pfizer vaccine is available to people ages 12 to 17.

How many Texans have been vaccinated?

As of Aug. 3, 15.1 million people have received at least one dose, which is 51.9% of Texas’ population, and 12.8 million people, or 44.1%, are fully vaccinated. A total of 26.8 million doses have been administered. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one dose.

Texas received its first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14. The vaccines are available to everyone age 12 and older in Texas, regardless of occupation or health status.

COVID-19 vaccine doses reported each day

The state has administered 26.8 million doses as of Aug. 3. The number of doses reported each day includes doses administered on previous days.

Health experts estimate 75% to 90% of Texans would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. This is about 22 million people, or nearly 100% of adults in the state. The state is still far from reaching that threshold, even when considering people who have some immunity from a previous case of COVID-19. The CDC recommends people previously infected get vaccinated because scientists aren’t sure how long immunity lasts for them.

Percent of Texans who are fully vaccinated

Health experts estimate 75% to 90% of Texans need to achieve immunity to COVID-19 to reach herd immunity. As of Aug. 2, about 44% of Texas’ 29 million people have been fully vaccinated. Vaccines are not approved for children under 12, who make up about 17% of the population.

The state’s vaccination effort has faced geographic, demographic and data challenges, many of which are unique to Texas, including a higher-than-average number of people who are too young to get the vaccine and a sluggish data collection system that can take days to publicly report doses administered.

A third of Texas’ population lives in more rural areas, where the fully vaccinated rate has consistently lagged the statewide rate. State health officials initially rolled out vaccine hubs to help administer shots. But in May, the state shifted the responsibility to a growing number of doctors, pharmacies, public health offices and other smaller providers who have closer relationships with the community.

How many people are in the hospital?

On Aug. 2, there were at least 7,305 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.

How many people have died?

The first death linked to the coronavirus in Texas occurred March 15, 2020 in Matagorda County. As of Aug. 3, 52,161 people who tested positive for the virus have died in Texas. DSHS counts deaths based on death certificates that list COVID-19 as the cause of death, which excludes deaths of people with COVID-19 who died of another cause.

Some regions with the highest mortality rates are predominantly Hispanic. The virus has been more deadly in Hidalgo and Cameron counties in the Rio Grande Valley, where death rates rival more populous parts of the state like Dallas and San Antonio. In El Paso County, thousands of residents have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, placing the region far ahead of other major urban counties in deaths per 1,000 residents.

How many new cases are reported each day?

The state reports the number of new confirmed cases and probable cases of the coronavirus in Texas each day, which excludes backlogged cases. The number of new cases reported drops on weekends, when labs are less likely to report new data to the state. At least one county, Bexar, the state’s fourth-largest, is only reporting data once per week.

New variants of the coronavirus that seem to spread more easily have been found in Texas, though preliminary studies suggest that vaccinations are still effective against the variants.