Latest Post

The Top Ingredients to Look For in Menopausal Skin-Care Probiotics: Solving Poor Digestive Health How to Do Double Leg Lift in Pilates? Tips, Technique, Correct Form, Benefits and Common Mistakes Top 5 Emerging Skincare Markets in 2022: Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – Market Summary, Competitive Analysis and Forecast to 2025 – Kelvin Harrison Jr. Is Growing with the Flow

AUSTIN – As at-home tests become more readily available, COVID-19 positive individuals may stay home but are unlikely to report it to their local health district – forcing greater inaccuracies in testing data. But health experts say there still is value in the information officials collect.

At the start of the pandemic, health experts, and subsequently the public, relied heavily on positive case counts as well as the positivity rate to give an indication of how the disease was spreading through any particular community. Even then, there were known issues with accuracies, particularly in the early days, as tests could return a false result and not every individual who may have had COVID went to go tested.

But it was still good information to have as they gave predictive information on hospitalizations that were likely to follow, and that pattern has yet to change, said Spencer Fox, associate director at the University of Texas as Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

Now, after more than two years in the pandemic and with greater available technology and care options, that data set has become less relied upon. Health experts, however, are hesitant to call it obsolete.

“I think there will always be a need for tracking the overall prevalence of COVID-19 in the community,” Fox said. “I would be very surprised if we just completely stopped tracking cases, but we might find that there are more accurate metrics that we can use for understanding community transmission.”

This, he said, includes tracking hospital data which is a direct link to health care needs, as well as wastewater surveillance estimates which also predict community spread.

“If there’s a goal of protecting health care capacity, hospital admissions is a great indicator,” he said.

After reporting its greatest spike in cases since the start of the pandemic this past winter due to the omicron variant which proved to be more contagious but not necessarily more deadly, Texas has now reached its lowest daily case count. On Thursday, the state reported nearly 1,800 positive cases and 31 new deaths, per state data. Texas has remained below 2,000 new cases for most of April. There were also 777 patients hospitalized with the disease of which 172 are in the ICU, it said.

This is a significant decrease from the highest number of hospitalizations of more than 14,000, reported in January 2021.

The UT Modeling Consortium, which has been tracking COVID community spread in the Austin area as well as across the state since the start of the pandemic, predicts the number of hospitalizations will drop below 500 in May and the number of ICU cases will drop to less than 200 in the same time period.

Texas State Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Shuford said there are likely several reasons for the low numbers. Primarily, there are high antibody levels – where an estimated 99% of Americans have immunity – whether it is from a vaccine or contracting the disease that has provided wide protections. Omicron, the latest prominent variant, and its sub-variant have proven to be more contagious but not necessarily more fatal, so while cases spiked it did not directly translate to hospitalizations. Nonetheless, Shuford said health experts know all available data is helpful in managing the disease.

“We’re still trying to maintain an awareness of how many hospital beds are being taken up by people who are COVID positive, and how many ICU resources are being used by those COVID positive individuals,” Shuford said. “That monitoring is still important.”

She added that even if case data is not as complete as previously, it still provides plenty of insight on how the disease moves through a community.

And while COVID may appear to have taken a back burner in many Americans’ minds, infectious disease expert Dr. Nikhil Bhayani said that is not the case with health care experts and that he believes current reporting and data collection will remain in place at least for the time being. Particularly because while health experts have a greater handle on the disease, there are still a lot of unknowns and variants that could mutate and evade current vaccines.

Shuford agreed.

“We know that this virus will continue to mutate and that new variants might be merged and that we could see surges of disease in the future, and so it’s important for us to continue to monitor for changes that are happening with COVID-19,” she said. “We are continuing to monitor these trends.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: