Yesterday, after a 60 minutes report suggesting a “spike” in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization in Texas, I questioned their assertion. After reviewing the data, especially the Rt value reflecting virus transmission, I concluded there was no spike.
Today Twitter was alive with talk of the “spike” of COVID-19 in Texas, a result of released and lax social distancing.
Just as quickly, others responded that these comments were wrong.
Given this debate, what is really happening here? First, these Twitter folks are looking at small numbers. Variations like this can be observed by chance, or from other events (the holiday weekend?). But, one of my mentors always told me that “you need to be very careful of any graph that does not start the axis at zero.” This made me very concerned about Jeremy Howard’s post. So I examined COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in Texas from the beginning of the pandemic.
While testing has increased dramatically (no definition of what type) neither the number of infections nor the hospital utilization in Texas appears to have shot up over the past two weeks. Even when enlarging the graph of hospitalizations or looking at ICU utilization, there is no discernible increase.
I then decided to look at COVID-19 deaths in Texas.
While total deaths continue to increase, there was no increase in daily deaths. So while the infection continues to kill, there is no”spike” in deaths.
The sources for the reports of the “spike” all seem to be news organizations, with prominent Twitter bloggers picking the stories up from there. Despite this, there does not seem to be a COVID-19 “spike” in Texas.
A final piece of good news. Daily numbers of COVID-19 deaths in the US continue to fall despite relaxations in social distancing.
This does not mean that we do not have to continue to monitor death statistics and make sure they continue to fall. It also does not show the cause for this drop, whether it is fever infections, less severe infections, or better treatment.
The major take home message is no “second wave” of COVID-19 deaths in the USA at the present time.