Texas reports record high coronavirus hospitalizations for 5th day in a row

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 local health officials, and it may not represent all cases of the disease given limited testing. Here's what we know about the daily numbers.

Gov. Greg Abbott is looking at two specific metrics to justify his decision to restart the Texas economy — the positive test rate and hospitalization levels. Here’s how the numbers changed in the first two weeks of May when Texas began reopening.

Where are most of the cases in Texas?

On March 4, DSHS reported Texas’ first positive case of the coronavirus, in Fort Bend County. The patient had recently traveled abroad. A month later on April 4, there were 6,110 cases in 151 counties. As of June 16, there are 93,206 cases in 237 counties. The Tribune is measuring both the number of cases in each county and the rate of cases per 1,000 residents.

Number of cases
Harris and Dallas counties, the two largest in the state, have reported the most cases and deaths.
Cases per 1,000 residents
The rate of cases per 1,000 residents is especially high in the panhandle’s Moore County, where infections are tied to a meatpacking plant. The rate of cases is also high in counties with state prisons such as Walker and Jones. In other rural areas where the presence of the virus has yet to be confirmed, testing has been scarce.

El Paso3,9484.71109
Fort Bend2,4023.2549

How many people are in the hospital?

On April 6, the state started reporting the number of patients with positive tests who are hospitalized. It was 1,153 that day and 2,518 on June 16. This data does not account for people who are hospitalized but have not gotten a positive test. As of mid-April, concerns that Texas hospitals would be unable to accommodate a surge of COVID-19 patients seem to have been assuaged.

As he makes decisions about how quickly to restart the Texas economy, Abbott says he is watching the number of hospitalizations and the hospitalization rate — the proportion of infected Texans who require hospitalization.

Hospitalization rate

The hospitalization rate is calculated by dividing the number of people who are currently hospitalized by the number of active cases, which is the number of total cases minus deaths and estimated recoveries. Estimated recoveries is a DSHS estimate of how many people require hospitalization and how long it takes most people to recover from the virus.

How many people have died?

The first death linked to the coronavirus in Texas occurred March 16 in Matagorda County. As of June 16, 2,029 people who tested positive for the virus have died.

New deaths from coronavirus each day

The average number of deaths reported over the past seven days shows how the situation has changed over time by deemphasizing daily swings.

How have the number of cases increased each day?

On March 24, the Texas Department of State Health Services changed its reporting system to track case counts directly from counties instead of relying on official case forms, which came in later and caused the state’s official count to lag behind other tallies. Increases in testing also led to more detected cases. Health experts say that even gradual steps to reopen businesses will increase the number of people who become sick from the virus. In May, a large one-day spike was reported after testing was done at meatpacking plants in the Amarillo region.

New cases of coronavirus each day

The average number of cases reported over the past seven days shows how the situation has changed over time by deemphasizing daily swings. The number of new cases reported drops on weekends, when labs are less likely to report new data to the state.

Note: On March 24, the state changed how it reported numbers resulting in a sharp increase in cases. On June 16, the state included 1,476 cases previously reported by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from Anderson and Brazoria County in its cumulative case count. The new cases for June 16 do not include those cases.

Daily infection rate

Gov. Greg Abbott said he is watching the state's infection rate — the percentage of positive cases to tests conducted. The average daily infection rate is calculated by dividing the 7-day average of positive cases by the 7-day average of tests conducted. This shows how the situation has changed over time by de-emphasizing daily swings. Public health experts want the daily infection rate to remain below 6%.
  • Infection rate is not shown because the state did not release viral testing data

How many people have been tested?

As of June 16, Texas has administered 1,522,434 tests for the coronavirus since March. Expert opinions differ on how much larger that figure needs to be. 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 deemphasizing daily swings.
  • Viral tests
  • Antibody tests
  • The state did not release the breakdown of tests
Mar. 8Mar. 22Apr. 5Apr. 19May 3May 17May 31June 1410,00020,00030,00040,00050,0007-day averageJune 1535,164 tests

The DSHS data also might not include all of the tests that have been run in Texas. The state has said it is not getting test data from every private lab, and as of mid-May only 3% of tests were coming from public labs. Even as demand for testing has increased, both public and private labs continue to prioritize Texans who meet certain criteria, but every private lab sets its own criteria.

On May 21, DSHS disclosed for the first time that as of a day earlier, it had counted 49,313 antibody tests as part of its "Total Tests" tally. That represents 6.4% of the 770,241 total tests that the state had reported on May 20. Health experts have warned against counting antibody and standard viral tests together because they are distinctly different tests. Antibody tests detect whether someone was previously infected, while standard viral tests determine whether someone currently has the virus.

Antibody tests are typically reported a day late.

How is this impacting Texans of color?

While early reports from other parts of the country indicate black Americans are disproportionately likely to get sick or die from the new coronavirus, it’s virtually impossible to determine if that grim reality is playing out in Texas because information released by state health officials is notably incomplete.

The limited data provided to the Tribune offers a murky glimpse of the virus' impact on Texas communities of color. Race and ethnicity are reported as unknown for a significant portion of the completed case reports. (Agency officials said some people prefer not to provide the information.)

Although state leaders acknowledge the demographic data is lacking, they have indicated the state won't be taking steps to mandate reporting to fill in the gaps.

What else should I know about this data?

These numbers come from the Texas Department of State Health Services, which updates statewide case counts at 3 p.m. each day. The data is from the same morning, and it may lag behind other local news reports.

The state’s data includes cases from federal immigration detention centers and federal prisons. It does not include cases reported at military bases, and state prisons are largely excluded.

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. Those case counts came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

Previously, The Texas Tribune incorrectly stated our formula for calculating the average daily infection rate. This has been corrected.