Texas has started to see a slow decline in new Covid-19 cases in recent days, following a sustained and steady monthslong surge in infections.
The state has seen around a 10% decrease in new coronavirus infections over the past two weeks, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. It reported an average of more than 14,000 new Covid-19 cases in the past seven days, down from nearly 18,000 in early-January.
But the decline in Texas has been slower than in other states. Unlike earlier waves of the pandemic, the fall surge swept across the entire country, leading to record hospitalizations and straining health-care systems throughout the U.S. In recent weeks, those high metrics have been easing in nearly every state.
“Texas is a big state and has had several regional outbreaks that have varied in timing, so as one area has gone up and then down, another area has come up,” said Vikas Parekh, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. He cited major outbreaks in the areas around Houston, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.
Texas, Dr. Parekh added, has had limited government restrictions and interventions.
During his State of the State address on Monday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas was on course for a healthy recovery, economically and otherwise.
“Our comeback is already materializing,” Mr. Abbott said. “Texans are returning to work. Students are returning to school. Families are re-establishing routines. With each passing day of more vaccinations and increased immunity, normalcy is returning to Texas.”
Angela Clendenin, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Texas A&M School of Public Health, said the number of new Covid-19 cases in recent days in Texas could be called a plateau.
Dr. Clendenin, like Dr. Parekh, referenced the size and diversity of the state for its uneven decrease in cases.
“There are areas of Texas that are not struggling and are seeing a similar decline in case counts as other places in the nation. However, there are still areas in the state where lack of access to health care continues to be a driver of steady to increasing cases,” Dr. Clendenin said.
Hospitalizations and deaths, she added, are beginning to decline from the post-holiday surge, which would suggest the newer cases are spread by people with “either milder symptoms or who are asymptomatic who are not getting tested,” she said.
Hospitalizations have been decreasing since Jan. 19, when nearly 14,000 patients were hospitalized, to just over 11,000 on Tuesday, according to the latest data from the Covid Tracking Project. Deaths, a lagging indicator, have hovered near an all-time high and only recently began to show signs of easing.
The number of Covid-19 tests coming back positive stands at 16.65%, according to Johns Hopkins. The national average is 8%.
“The almost 17% test positivity rate reinforces that the level of testing in Texas is still insufficient for identifying people who are infected,” said Jewel Mullen, associate professor of population health and internal medicine at the University of Texas at Austin.
The discovery in the U.S. of highly transmissible variants of the novel coronavirus, which have propelled infection rates in multiple countries, underscores the need to stay vigilant, Dr. Mullen said.
Texas has detected seven cases of a variant first discovered in the U.K., according to the CDC.
Both Dr. Clendenin and Dr. Parekh said it is difficult to know if new variants are behind the stagnation of cases in Texas, given the low level of viral sequencing being done across the U.S.