SAN ANTONIO — After a grueling summer for COVID-19 in Texas and across the country, August and September brought decreasing case numbers—evidence that safety measures like face coverings, social distancing and limiting travel outside the home may have finally helped the Lone Star State turn a corner.
The momentum wasn't sustained in October. Instead, with more students returning to school and colder temperatures keeping more people inside – where researchers say the coronavirus spreads easier than in outdoor environments – the positive trends of the previous two months have reversed in the state, sending numbers climbing.
On Saturday, Texas Health and Human Services officials reported 6,845 new cases of the novel coronavirus—the second-highest figure since the start of September, after 7,055 diagnoses were reported Tuesday. The development brings the state's overall number of COVID-19 infections in the ongoing pandemic to 900,596.
It took only 18 days for Texas to go from 800,000 cases to 900,000, which is the shortest amount of time for 100,000 new Texas infections since the 17 days it took to go from 500,000 to 600,000 cases in mid-to-late-August.
Examining how the situation evolved into the start of September and beyond shows more hints that the virus spread at a faster rate in Texas this month. It took most of September – 25 days, to be exact – for Texas to go from 600,000 to 700,000 infections on Sept. 22. But it was only 21 days later for the state to hit 800,000, and even less time for 900,000 to be reached.
Hospital admissions from COVID-19 also soared in October, by 79%. On Saturday, there are nearly 5,700 Texans receiving treatment for coronavirus symptoms, many hundreds more than the 3,190 who were hospitalized at the start of the month. Comparatively, August and September saw stress levels ease at Texas hospitals; coronavirus-related admissions decreased by 53% and 19% in those months, respectively.
July was the last time hospitalizations went up in Texas, from month's start to month's end. Meanwhile, another 90 fatalities from virus complications reported by the state on Saturday sends Texas's death toll beyond 18,000.
Some of this can perhaps be attributed to the situation in El Paso, where COVID-19 has been especially fierce over the last two weeks, to the point where patients are being sent to other medical facilities in the state. According to the New York Times, El Paso County has averaged nearly 1,400 daily cases over the last week, far more than anywhere else in the state; the next-highest is Tarrant County's 634.
According to the Times, Texas also has the highest daily average of new COVID-19 cases over the last week, with 6,653; that's almost 1,000 more than the next state on the list, Illinois. The state also accounts for the highest average of daily COVID-19-related fatalities over the last week, with 86, the Times says.