Recent data show state coronavirus 'hotspots' Arizona, Texas, Georgia could be turning corner
Arizona COVID hospitalizations plunge, Georgia deaths are at 3-month low, and Texas shows signs of peaking.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
Data out of three key U.S. states show encouraging signs for the coronavirus pandemic here, with two recent COVID-19 hotspots showing signs of turning a corner while one of the earliest states to reopen recently posted its lowest daily death toll in three months.
Arizona and Texas, which have been in the national spotlight for the past month due to rising coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, both appear to have possibly turned a corner in their respective outbreaks over the past week.
Of the two, Arizona is the more encouraging. The state's coronavirus dashboard indicates that daily new infection numbers in the state have declined steeply since a high on June 29. Daily death numbers have likewise fallen sharply since since their later peak on July 7.
More evidence on the state's dashboard gives further, tentative, indication that the state may be on the downward tail of its outbreak: The "number of positive or suspected inpatient COVID-19 patients" in the state's hospitals have been significantly declining for a week now.
From a peak on July 13 of 3,517, the total number of coronavirus inpatients in the state had dropped on seven out of eight days to 3,041 on Monday, before a slight uptick on Tuesday brought the total to 3,094.
The weeklong reduction in inpatients is by far the most sustained decline in inpatient COVID-19 numbers since the state began keeping track in early April.
The state's survey of "COVID-like-illnesses" in inpatient populations has also shown notably decreasing numbers, peaking at 20.9% on June 28 and dropping to just 12.8% of visits on July 12 (those numbers are updated roughly every week).
Texas appears to hit peak, begin possible decline
Texas, which had also been beset by significant infection rates over the past month and a half, has also been evincing tentatively encouraging signs in the last week or so that the virus may be on the wane there.
Texas's COVID-19 dashboard shows that total statewide hospitalizations, which had been growing steadily since early June, leveled off about a week ago, rising and falling along statistically insignificant lines for about the last eight days.
Further encouraging data can be found at the ground level: The Texas Medical Center — the largest medical complex in the world, and one at the center of the hard-hit Houston area — has recorded a marked decline in new daily hospitalizations over the past twelve days. As of Tuesday afternoon, the health complex was projecting a two-week decline of COVID-19 occupancy in its hospital beds if current trends continue.
The state over the past several days has also recorded a marked drop in the percentage of positive tests. Cases and fatalities are still elevated. However, due to the methods Texas uses to report COVID-19 data, it is not certain that those elevated numbers are representative of the pandemic's progress there. Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Lyndsey Rosales confirmed on Tuesday that the dashboard "reflects the date of when the case or death was reported to DSHS," not necessarily when COVID symptoms first manifested or when a patient actually died.
Georgia continues to see declining death rate
Georgia was among the first states to begin the reopening process at the end of April. The state was sharply criticized at the time for what commentators and public health officials said was a too-hasty economic resumption.
Yet the state on its coronavirus dashboard is recording the lowest number of fatalities of the past three months: As of July 7, the state's seven-day moving average of deaths was 15.8, the lowest since late March and down from a mid-April peak of over 43 average daily deaths. (The state does not certify data within the most recent two weeks of records, stating that the information may be incomplete due to a lag in reporting.)
Mirroring trends elsewhere in the U.S. and the world, the state's sharply declining fatality rates over the past two and a half months stand in marked contrast to its skyrocketing case numbers there: As of July 7, the seven-day average of new cases was 3,223, up from around 680 at the beginning of May.
The low deaths come even as the state has recorded increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations, from a low of below 800 in June to over 3,100 as of Tuesday afternoon.
The lack of expected correlation between spiking infection rates, hospitalizations and flat (and sometimes declining) death rates in Georgia and elsewhere has left experts scrambling to explain the discrepancy. Many have pointed to the fact that the newest wave of coronavirus infections is occurring mostly in young people, giving most new patients much better odds at recovering.
Other scientists have argued that the disease itself has mutated, as is often the case with respiratory viruses, becoming more infectious but less deadly, leading to a higher incidence of cases but overall less fatalities.
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