April 25, 2020

Coronavirus Blows Early Expectations Out of Water
with Higher Average Strike Rate in Rural Hot Spots

By Mike Hailey

The odds of coming down with the coronavirus were supposed to be astronomically higher in the big Texas cities when Governor Greg Abbott refused one month ago to follow the lead of Democratic counterparts in other states with a statewide order for everyone to shelter in place.

With less than 300 confirmed Texas cases and only eight deaths heading into the last week in March, Abbott and other Republicans argued that a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn't work in rural areas where the risk would be minimal compared to the major population centers that the virus would target.

But the numbers tell a very different story now in the Lone Star State where none of the 10 counties with the most people even rank in the top 20 in terms of the proportionate toll that the virus has taken since it surfaced here early last month.

The same is true across the nation - with four of the five sparsely populated states that have no stay-at-home mandates in place posting more COVID-19 cases per capita than California or Texas as the country's two largest. South Dakota - the nation's 46th largest state and the smallest without a lockdown - has more people infected by the coronavirus on average than six of the 10 states that rank among the top 10 in size.

Fifty of the 254 counties in Texas hadn't reported at least one coronavirus case by Saturday afternoon. But the coronavirus has been as eccentric and fickle as a tornado in geographic selectivity in the state's wide open spaces - crashing into some towns while leaving others that are nearby barely glazed or untouched.

Dumas - a city with less than 16,000 people near the top of the Texas Panhandle - is one of the smallest places in the nation where folks have to strap on masks or cover their faces some other way when they're outside of their homes. But that's because Dumas happens to be the seat of the county that leads the state in the number of confirmed coronavirus case per capita with one positive test for every 109 residents there by late this afternoon.

The mask order in Moore County is a consequence of an outbreak at a meat packing plant in the hamlet of Cactus about 15 miles north of Dumas. Republican County Judge Rowdy Rhoades is threatening to slap anyone who's caught with their mouth and nose exposed with a $1,000 fine and possible Class C misdemeanor charge as well. Rhoades has imposed a curfew of 10 p.m. across the county.

Sherman County that's squeezed between Moore County and the Texas border with Oklahoma has the third highest coronavirus infection rate on average in the state with one case for every 279 - presumably as a function of its proximity to the JBS plant about 20 miles south in Cactus.

An outbreak at a Tyson poultry processing plant clear across the state in the Piney Woods of deep East Texas explains why Shelby County ranks fourth in coronavirus cases that have been confirmed with one for every 297 residents. Shelby is flanked on the north and south by Panola and San Augustine counties that have had the fifth and eighth highest coronavirus counts on average.

The 10 Texas counties with the most positive tests for the virus per capita have an average population of less than 38,000. The five counties that lead the state in that unfortunate respect have 15,000 residents on average.

Harris County - the place that everyone assumed initially would be the most dangerous place during the pandemic - hasn't lived up to the billing with a ranking of 21 in the number of virus infections per capita.

Dallas County - the second largest in Texas - has been a safe haven compared to some of the dots on the map that are hot spots now after being assured that there had been little cause for concern.

Lubbock and Galveston counties are the only two of the 20 in Texas with the largest populations that are ranked among the top 20 in the coronavirus per capital tally.

 

COVID-19 TEXAS CORONAVIRUS RATES
1 Case and Death Per Number of Residents in Counties Where
Less than One in Every 1,000 Had Been Infected by April 25
  COUNTY Cases Rate Deaths Rate
  Texas 23,938 1,211 630 46,025
1 Moore
20,940
192 109 3 6,980
2 Donley
3,311
24 138 0 NA
3 Sherman
3067
11 279 0 NA
4 Shelby
25,513
86 297 0 NA
5 Panola
23,243
75 310 6 3,879
6 Washington
35,043
78 449 11 3,186
7 Walker
72,245
151 478 2 36,122
8 San Augustine
8,253
16 516 1 8,253
9 Potter
120,458
221 545 5 24,091
10 Nacogdoches
65,580
115 570 7 9,369
11 Castro
7,843
13 603 1 7,843
12 Lubbock
305,225
494 618 40 7,631
13 Matagorda
36,840
59 618 3 12,280
14 Hardin
57,319
92 623 3 19,106
15 Galveston
335,036
522 642 21 15,954
16 Taylor
136,290
203 671 3 45,430
17 Gray
22,404
32 700 0 NA
18 Oldham
2,114
3 705 1 74,913
19 Dawson
12,813
103 712 1 12,813
20 Coryell
74,913
103 727 1 74,913
21 Harris
4,652,980
5,482 849 84 56,744
22 Laredo
274,794
321 856 12 22,900
23 Fort Bend
764,828
889 860 20 38,281
24 Brazoria
362,457
417 869 3 120,819
25 Victoria
92,084
105 877 2 46,042
26 Travis
1,226,698
1,379 890 32 38,334
27 Deaf Smith
18,836
21 897 0 NA
28 Dallam
7,208
8 901 1 7,208
29 Dallas
2,618,148
2,834 924 77 34,002
30 Calhoun
21,744
23 945 2 10.872
31 Harrison
66,661
69 966 4 16,665
32 Randall
134,442
137 981 3 44,814

 

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