The continued economic growth and reopening of the economy in Texas, and in Brazos County, critically depend on getting a handle on the recent surge of Covid-19 cases. Fortunately, recent evidence over the past weeks shows very good news, with declining rates of new infections and decreasing counts of active cases in most of the major population centers of Texas. Brazos County continues to show declining rates in both new infections and active cases.
Beginning in mid-June, Texas saw a rise in both the number of new cases reported daily and the number of active cases. Active cases are important, and new cases obviously add to the active case totals, but those recovering from the disease subtract from the active case totals. If the number of recoveries exceed the number of new cases, the active case numbers will fall.
The situation in Brazos County has been improving since July 2, when our number of new cases per 1,000 of population hit its all-time high of 0.47. Since that time, our number of new cases has been on the decline, hitting just under 0.12 new cases per 1,000 of population on August 4. We have cut our rate by almost 75%, to levels last seen in mid-June. While there is still a public health concern, the situation now, at the beginning of August, is much better than it was at the beginning of July.
Much of the rest of Texas is following along. Overall, the state number has dropped from 0.33 new daily cases per 1,000 of population on July 22 to 0.27 new cases on August 3. It is a bit of a concern that there has been an upward movement in these numbers in the last four days. Harris County reached a high of 0.33 new cases per 1,000 of population on July 18, declined a bit in late July, but returned to 0.34 cases per 1,000 on August 4, establishing a new all-time high. Other counties in Texas seem to be on a more well-defined downward path, albeit with some volatility. Again, Brazos County stands out as a county that reached a very high rate of new cases in early July but has since seen a fairly steep and steady decline in the rate of new cases. But Dallas County, El Paso County, Travis County all show declines. Harris County aside, it seems Texas has generally reached and passed a turning point in terms of new cases.
What about active cases? These are an estimate of those currently ill with the disease and give an indication of the current burden of Covid-19 on the community. To construct these estimates, health officials need to estimate the number of people who have recovered and subtract those from the number of total cases. Thus, these data are perhaps less precise than the daily new case data used above.
Here again, Brazos County has had a favorable trend in the several weeks, with active cases per 1,000 of population declining from a high of 5.4 on July 8 to a value of about 2.2 on August 2. Travis County, El Paso County, and Dallas County show evidence of recent plateaus or smaller declines in active cases. Meanwhile, the number of active cases in Harris County continues to rise. The state of Texas has shown a plateau in the number of active cases per 1,000 of population, with some evidence of a modest decline.
Overall, it seems that the results from the restrictions announced by the Governor in late June, and the accompanying increased public acceptance of mask use and social distancing, have finally shown up in the statewide data, and for most counties. Unfortunately, Harris County is proving to be the exception to this generally good news. In comparison to the largest population centers, Brazos County has had a high infection rate relative to its population size, both in terms of active cases and in terms of new cases, but has exhibited rather steeply declining rates of new infections and declining number of active cases for the last several weeks. Ideally, this trend will continue here and around the state, and will provide the impetus for further economic recovery.