How To Make Sense Of The Latest COVID-19 Numbers, And What They Mean For Reopening

Deaths are up, infections are on the rise, but hospitalizations are down. And Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to expand the state’s reopening on Monday.

By Rhonda Fanning & Jill AmentMay 15, 2020 12:39 pm, ,

On Thursday, Texas reported its largest number of new coronavirus cases in one day: 1,448. That’s 3% more than the day before. And Wednesday’s number was 5% higher than Tuesday’s. The increase comes as testing becomes more available. Meanwhile, the total number of Texans in the hospital for COVID-19 dropped by almost a third from the day before. But deaths are on the rise: 58 people died on Thursday, which was the highest the state has seen so far.

All of this comes as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decides how far to take reopening of the state. He’s expected to expand that reopening on Monday.

Jeremy Wallace is a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle. He told Texas Standard host David Brown on Friday that the COVID-19 hospitalization numbers are one of the biggest factors in Abbott’s decision-making. That’s because they determine the state’s capacity to treat the sick. As of now, Texas has enough hospital beds and ventilators. But that could change. And what appears to be a growing death rate could complicate the governor’s calculus.

About one-third of COVID-19-related deaths have been in nursing homes. Wallace said the state doesn’t report which facilities. He said Abbott is sending the National Guard to help some facilities with testing, and to hopefully stem the deaths.

Other hot spots for deaths have been in prisons and meatpacking plants.

As for the reopening plan, Wallace said Abbott will continue to relax restrictions if the infection rate per day stays low and the death rate stays low compared to other states. On Monday, Abbott is expected to announce whether Texas will allow restaurants, retail stores, theaters and malls to increase to 50% occupancy. By comparison, New York and Florida’s infection rates are going down, and those states are just beginning to reopen. Texas is in a later phase of reopening, as infections continue to rise.

“The governor has said it himself that once we open up more, there are going to be more infections,” Wallace said. “What’s at the key of his decision-making is, can we handle people who do get sick?”

Web stay by Caroline Covington.


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