covid-update

KAUFMAN COUNTY, Texas — You’ve probably noticed a bit of a shift in the COVID-19 reporting in Texas the last week or so. We’ve had a significant uptick in the number of new cases, as well as a dramatic increase in a more concerning number: COVID-positive hospitalized patients.

I’ve also seen an increase in the number of questions I am getting from patients and friends, so I thought I’d create an informational post and see if that helps.

One new change I want to address is how the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is reporting COVID info to the Local Health Authorities and County Judges. They had essentially been doing double work since the pandemic was official: They were sending us daily emails regarding our local numbers, while they have also been updating a dashboard that is available to everyone. The good news is that the dashboard has MUCH more data and some important trends, and I have been using it to guide my advice and decision making since it was first launched in March 2020. So for my money, there is no real change in useful data. You can find a link to it on the DSHS coronavirus page (https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/) but if you want the direct dashboard link it is here: https://txdshs.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/ed483ecd702b4298ab01e8b9cafc8b83

Because of DSHS decision, the main thing you might notice to be missing from the Kaufman County daily updates is the approximate city of residence of positive cases. This actually makes practical sense; it’s just not as important because of how widespread the virus has gotten. Rather than changing how you approach going somewhere based on how many cases are in a town, it’s best to just always practice those “universal precautions.” In other words, you should assume that anyone you contact outside your family may have the virus, so act accordingly. Stay home whenever possible, stay 6 feet apart, wash hands frequently. Because we do have plenty of documented cases of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread, please wear a mask to prevent spreading those water droplets that may harbor virus.

My other reason for writing is to give some direction on what numbers to watch. I think there is some value to keeping an eye on the total cases in your county, but not on an everyday basis. The rolling weekly average of new cases is more telling as to how we are really doing. In addition to watching the DSHS dashboard, I have linked a good site that updates that regularly here: https://texas2036.shinyapps.io/covid_tracker/

The other number I mentioned above is the number of COVID-19 positive cases that are in the hospital. This tells us the number of patients who are sick enough to need hospital admission, which is a reliable indicator of how active the virus is in our region. Our service area (DFW and surrounding counties) has roughly doubled the number of COVID cases in the various hospitals from 3-4 weeks ago. So this is worth noting.

One of the drawbacks of watching the hospital number is that it’s a bit of delayed indicator. Most patients who are infected don’t get sick enough to visit a hospital until 5-10 days after symptoms appear, and symptoms might not appear for a few weeks after initial infection. However, because one of our biggest concerns has been to flatten the curve so healthcare teams aren’t overwhelmed, this number is definitely a good one to watch.

Based on these numbers, my general advice to all is to escalate your caution levels. We are not in crisis mode, but I would definitely say I’m more concerned about COVID in Texas today than I was 2-3 weeks ago.

If you are reluctant to distance or wear a mask, please consider looking out for your friends, neighbors and co-workers who are more vulnerable than you and your bulletproof immune system. They may be hiding a medical condition, or they may be running to get needed supplies for an elderly parent or relative. (I’m sure you hadn’t thought of thought of that, since you are clearly self-centered). And also, please don’t talk about private retail business who require masks infringing on your rights. That makes you sound even more ignorant than you actually are, since those businesses are on private property and the constitution you think you are waving around is actually what allows them to refuse to allow your inconsiderate carcass into their store.

Yes, others can be careful even when you are not, and yes, they will obviously try to clean themselves of your filthy bugs after they dodge your nasty infected saliva, but just like you wear a seat belt even if your airbags work, every little bit helps. Also, I don't know, maybe it’d be nice if we just look out for each other, every so often?

Anyway, enough soap box. We are all in this for the long haul, so let’s all be mindful of each other and careful about what sources we use for information. Best case scenario, we can get through this with at least some amount of our sanity in place.