Houston area seeing slight uptick in number of coronavirus cases, but what does it mean?

Over the last seven days, data provided to the Texas Department of State Health Services showed an uptick in the daily number of positive COVID-19 cases reported in Harris County.

However, infectious disease experts say daily totals can be misleading and a better barometer is the positivity rate. This rate gives the daily percentage of those testing positive for COVID-19.

“It gives a sense for what is the general risk out there,” said Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, assistant professor of medicine, infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine.

According to state data analyzed by Channel 2 Investigates, the positivity rate in Texas began dropping from a high of 15% on April 12 but has since plateaued at between 5% and 7% since April 23. Kulkarni said what we are not seeing is a daily decline in this rate.

So what does that mean to you?

“Wear a mask, social distancing, hand-washing, staying away from sick people,” Kulkarni said.

Kulkarni said what we need to see is a daily decline over a two week period before even starting to relax. Another measuring stick is hospitalization rates. Statewide, and in our region, these rates have also plateaued. That’s good, no big spikes means our healthcare system is not getting overwhelmed.

“You have to make sure you don’t have small outbreaks in certain areas,” Kulkarni said.