Tonight, 60 minutes had a long segment about Texas, the end of social distancing and coronavirus control measures. The segment focused on San Antonio, but also addressed Texas-wide reductions in limitations on church services, restaurants and other measures such as enforced wearing of masks.
Both the mayor of San Antonio, Ron Nirenberg, and Scott Pelley, the 60 minutes commentator, remarked that there were “spikes” in the number of COVID-19 infections in Texas since limitations in social distancing had been rescinded. The mayor of San Antonio did add, however, that there were not increases in hospitalizations or ICU requirements.
I was impressed by the Mayor and became concerned by the message of this segment. I decided to go to Rt Live to examine the current Texas Rt. The value of Rt is a key measure of how fast the virus infection is growing in a certain geographic region. It is essentially the average number of people who become infected by a single infected person. Logically, if a single person infects more than one person, the Rt is above 1.0 and the virus will spread quickly. When Rt is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading.
Remarkably, the Rt of the ten largest states shows that Texas has not had an increase in viral spread over the past 4 weeks. Remarkably, the only state that has had a recent increase is Michigan, which still has many of its restrictions in place. Despite this increase in viral spread Michigan has had continued drops in hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.
I also could not find data related to a spike in infections in Texas other than increases in documented infections associated with increased testing.
This does not mean we don’t need to continue to monitor infections across the country as the summer moves forward. It just means there is no apparent flare in infectivity associated with reductions in social distancing in Texas or other states.