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April 12, 2020

Texas Reactivation Could Be Further Down the Road
than GOP Leaders Plan as Optimism Triggers Alarms

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

COVID-19 MAJOR COUNTY RATES
Population Divided by Cases & Deaths
Ranked by Confirmed Cases
COUNTY POP CASES DEATH
Texas   2,146 105,824
Galveston 17 1,000 44,380
Lubbock 18 1,130 21,802
Harris 1 1,307 113,487
Fort Bend 10 1,427 69,530
Webb 19 1,439 34,349
Dallas 2 1,593 96,968
Brazoria 14 1,610 181,229
Travis 5 1,649 136,300
Brazos 23 1,663 20,257
Denton 9 1,764 64,324
Cameron 13 2,173 142,241
Collin 6 2,199 138,515
Montgomery 11 2,275 114,187
Smith 22 2,449 113,864
Tarrant 3 2,611 82,179
Hays 24 2,616 NA
Bexar 4 2,709 72,540
El Paso 8 3,124 420,205
Bell 16 3,444 115,944
Jefferson 20 3,444 115,944
McLennan 21 3,641 125,630
Hidalgo 7 4,578 860,661
Nueces 15 4,753 NA
Williamson 12 4,846 136,886

 

COVID-19 MAJOR COUNTY RATES
Population Divided by Cases & Deaths
Ranked by Deaths Reported
COUNTY POP CASES DEATH
Texas   2,146 105,824
Brazos 23 1,663 20,257
Lubbock 18 1,130 21,802
Webb 19 1,439 34,349
Galveston 17 1,000 44,380
Denton 9 1,764 64,324
Fort Bend 10 1,427 69,530
Bexar 4 2,709 72,540
Tarrant 3 2,611 82,179
Dallas 2 1,593 96,968
Harris 1 1,307 113,487
Smith 22 2,449 113,864
Montgomery 11 2,275 114,187
Bell 16 3,444 115,944
McLennan 21 3,641 125,630
Travis 3 1,649 136,300
Williamson 12 4,846 136,886
Collin 4 2,199 138,515
Cameron 13 2,173 142,241
Brazoria 14 1,610 181,229
El Paso 8 3,124 420,205
Hidalgo 7 4,578 860,661
Hays 24 2,616 NA
Nueces 15 4,753 NA

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top two Texas leaders might have raised expectations to an unrealistic level with plans to get an economic and social resurgence under way in the next few weeks amid suggestions that the coronavirus is on the verge of peaking here.

The prospects for an optimistic timetable that Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick touted at the start of the Easter weekend appeared to grow dim on Sunday with warnings from major health officials about the dangers of setting target dates for reopenings.

Abbott plans to get a gradual return to business usual in motion across the state with an executive order that he will unveil this week in a move that will ostensibly ease some of the restrictions that he'd placed on businesses almost a month ago as the COVID-19 outbreak erupted in Texas. Patrick told a group of GOP activists late last week that he expects the Texas economy to be back on track by the first week in May.

But Abbott and Patrick could be jumping the gun if they're going to heed the advice of high-level experts like federal official Anthony Fauci who suggested on Sunday that it wouldn't be safe to began a gradual reopening for another month or more.

President Donald Trump hinted in a Twitter post on Easter morning that a surplus of hospital beds in hot spots like New York City is a sign that his guarded promise of an economic revival by the end of April is an achievable goal.

But Fauci - the most prominent member of the president's coronavirus task force - cautioned that a "rolling rentry" before the end of May could the spark for surges in the case count and death toll. Johns Hopkins University reported on Sunday night that more than 550,000 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. where 22,023 had died by the time the sun went down on Easter.

Trump has been sharply criticized for ignoring the advice of U.S. intelligence and medical officials who'd sounded the alarm in February for a need to limit the exposure to the coronavirus with a dramatic shutdown of the economy and public movement. Fauci acknowledged today that procrastination in the critical infant stages of the spread in the U.S. had culminated in a much higher loss of lives.

Trump countered the critical assessment with a retweet of a post that said "Time to #FireFauci" - by a California Republican who'd been crushed by Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an open primary election in March.

The president who'd trusted instincts that proved to be wrong has appeared to take a more cautious approach after vowing to have America reopened by Easter. The April 30 restart that Trump has been promoting in the past few days could be another mirage if he's worried about another public relations disaster. Abbott and Patrick will probably be on board with whatever Trump says he's planning.

Texas hasn't been hit as hard up to now as other major states with 13,886 confirmed cases and 296 deaths by midnight on Sunday. New York has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. with more than 190,288 and 9,385 fatalities heading into Monday.

The virus has been true to form in Texas with people in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas having the highest chance of coming down with the respiratory malady and dying as a result of it. The confirmation rates have been in line with the state's population for the most part with places like Galveston, Lubbock and Brazos counties as significant outliers.

The per-capita rates of positive tests in Galveston and Lubbock counties have been higher than it has in Harris County and other major population centers with one of every 1,130 people having cases of coronavirus that have been confirmed.

Lubbock ranks second behind Brazos while Galveston is third in the virus death rate among the two dozen Texas counties with populations of more than 200,000. But the death tolls have fluctuated with some areas seeing spikes as a consequence of the contagion's emergence in nursing homes that were unprepared for it.

More than 80 cases had been reported in Galveston at a Texas City nursing home where an expirimental drug that Trump had touted has been prescribed by Robin Armstrong - a physician who's been a state Republican Party vice-chairman with a role on the president's re-election campaign. Doctors have warned that the medication could kill the seniors who Armstrong has on it.

The Houston area has had the highest infection rate in Texas with one of every 1,377 people in Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery counties testing positive by Sunday night. One in every 1,936 cases that have been confirmed in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties in the DFW metroplex where there a half-million more total residents than the Bayou City and surrounding vicinities.

But the per-capita death tally has been lower in the Houston area than it has in DFW so far. One of every 90,000 people in Dallas and the three major neighboring counties have been killed by the coronavirus compared to one in every 105,000 in the four counties where most of the Houston area population is based.

Significantly lower case and death rates in some areas that are heavily Hispanic like Hidalgo, El Paso and Nueces counties appear to indicate that a substantial number of people who are infected have been diagnosed with the disease and could be dying at home after going undetected. Not a single death has been reported in Nueces County where more than 361,000 people reside.

But the per-capita coronavirus confirmation and death rate has been high in Webb County on the border northwest of the Rio Grande Valley. It's conceviable that the numbers could be worse in Webb County after the city of Laredo shelled out a half-million dollars on testing kits that proved to be defective.

But Texas received some relatively good news by coronavirus era standards on Sunday when University of Washington researchers moved up the projected apex for the virus spread here by nine days to April 26. The accelerated estimate in the updated UW Health Metrics and Evaluation Institute analysis gives a measure of credence to Abbott's assertion that officials here were starting to see a flattening in the curve for the coronavirus.

But that milestone objective in a rapidly-expanding coronavirus vocabulary doesn't mean that the number of people who are infected is going down. A flattened curve simply signifies a decrease in the rate of the increase of cases that have been confirmed in a certain period of time. But the experts at Johns Hopkins reported Sunday that the U.S. confirmation rate had gone up more in the past five days than it had in the five previous.

While a peak would represent an actual drop in the number of positive coronavirus tests, medical and scientific officials say Americans would still highly vulnerable to the disease long after a vertex.

The attempts to gauge the intensity of the spread have been complicated by a lack of testing in some parts of Texas and the nation. Expert projections are muddled even more amid the recognition that as many as one out of every four coronavirus carriers are asymptomatic and could be spreading it without any way to know that they're infected until an antibody test has been developed.

That will make it possible for epidemiologists like Fauci to determine whether a "herd immunity" has been established as a way to try to prevent a second wave this fall. The antibodies measurement apparently would determine what percentage of the population would still be at risk based on the number who'd had the disease and didn't know it or have recovered from it and no longer testing positive.

 

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