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Data trends show Houston is not out of the coronavirus woods yet

HOUSTON – Over the past two months, Houston officials have displayed charts and graphs illustrating the number of coronavirus cases. But as the state begins to reopen, where exactly does Houston stand in the spread of the virus.

“We have a long way to go,” said Dr. Stephen Spann, the founding dean of The University of Houston medical school. “I would take away that this is still a big problem.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports the total of new COVID-19 cases each day throughout the state. Texas appeared to peak in the middle of April. But instead of trending down, the curve settled into a plateau.

In Harris and surrounding counties, KPRC 2 Investigates found similar patterns. Health experts said Houston needs to see a consistent daily decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases.

But, Dr. Prathit Kulkarni of Baylor College of Medicine sees a silver lining in the data.

“We can take encouragement that we didn’t see a New York City type of situation,” he said.

Kulkarni said these numbers show aggressive social distancing measures worked.

The COVID-19 fatality rate remains around 2% locally and statewide. Even hospital and ICU admissions for coronavirus cases in our area have plateaued; no big spikes. But Kulkarni urged caution.

“I definitely at this moment would not act like things are over,” he said.

Dr. Spann also warned that the lack of testings makes understanding the full extent of the infection difficult.

“Our case rate may be twice as high as we think it is,” he said.

Texas still has only tested about 1.5% of the state population. Some rural counties have provided no testing, while others have evaluated less than one percent of their citizens.

“We know that about 25% of the people that are infected are asymptomatic,” Dr. Spann said.

Even that statistic is not certain until more testing is done, he added.

However, Dr. Kulkarni said the numbers at this time support a gradual reopening of the state, but people by no means should let their guard down.

“The thing to do is stay vigilant and keep it up and watch how things progress over the next several weeks and months,” he said.