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.
|COUNTY||NUMBER OF CASES||CASES PER 1,000 PEOPLE||DEATHS|
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.
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
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
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
- Infection rate is not shown because the state did not release viral testing data
- Note: On May 19, the state started breaking out virus tests from antibody tests. Previously, about 50,000 total antibody tests were counted as virus tests, artificially deflating the infection rate. On June 7, the state upgraded the system that labs use to report testing data. A few days later, the state revised the test numbers for June 6 to show a decrease in total viral tests for that day, meaning the number of new viral tests reported was a negative number making the daily infection rate incalculable for that day.
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
- Viral tests
- Antibody tests
- The state did not release the breakdown of tests
- Note: Antibody tests were included in the new total tests counts for each day before May 14. The state broke out the number of new daily antibody and viral tests after that date. On June 7, the state upgraded the system that labs use to report testing data. A few days later, the state revised the test numbers for June 6 to show a decrease in total viral tests for that day, meaning the number of new viral tests reported was a negative number.
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.