Home testing makes it difficult to predict new waves of COVID in Texas – Houston Public Media

Christopher Connelly / KERA News

A rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott.

The number of reports daily cases of coronavirus in Texas has more than quintupled since the beginning of May. But judging how long the last push might last isn’t easy.

Dr. Trish M. Perl, Professor at Department of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center which specializes in Infectious diseases said this was due, in part, to more people testing from home.

“None of us are sure what the crystal ball looks like,” Perl told The Texas Newsroom. “Sometimes we’ve had really good insights, if you will. Right now our insights aren’t as good as they used to be because so many people are testing at home. And a lot of the strategies of verification of the cases we’ve had aren’t necessarily as robust as they used to be.”

The BA.5 variant now accounts for most of the country’s new infections. Experts call BA.5 the most transmissible Variant COVID to date.

On Tuesday, July 12, approximately 8,000 new cases were reported in Texas, according tostatistics of the State Department of Health and Human Services. This follows more than 9,000 new cases reported on July 9.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, said these reports don’t paint the full picture.

“[Home testing] the information is not sent to the state or the federal government, so there is an undercount,” he told Houston Public Media. “Officially in the United States there are 100,000 new cases per day, in Texas 10,000 new cases per day, in Harris County 2,000 cases per day – but you have to take that with a few grains of salt and it’s about 10 times higher than that. »

Hotez said the positivity rate in Harris County is near 30%, signaling that Texas could see a surge similar to what it saw last year and earlier this year when the variant Omicron was the dominant strain.

Although true caseloads are harder to count, hospitalization rates for people with COVID are reported more accurately, helping experts gauge the extent of the latest variants.

‘Of the [Tuesday]we had 672 patients hospitalized with COVID 19 in our trauma area” in North Texas, Perl said. “And that’s an increase of 184…since July 1.”

As of Wednesday, there were about 3,300 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across Texas,accordingat the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. This total includes 464 in intensive care.

“We’re still seeing mostly mild disease, but we’re seeing more severe disease, especially in older, immunocompromised people,” Perl said. “So those are two groups that may not respond as well to vaccines.”

She said one of the reasons for such a rapid spread of the BA.5 variant is due to reinfection in people who had a COVID strain before, even just a few months ago.

“If you had an infection with a sub-variant of Omicron two months ago, before BA.5 circulated, it looks like you could still be re-infected. So we don’t see any protection against the infection,” she said, adding that there is not enough current data to determine the extent to which natural immunity protects people from hospitalization.

But Perl said vaccinations and booster shots still protect most people who get COVID-19 from hospitalization and death.

“It may not protect you from infections, but it protects you from bad things,” she said.

As BA.5 spreads, experts say now is not the time to let our guard down.

Hotez said the Texans should make the most of the current opportunities for extra protections — something he says a lot of people aren’t doing.

“One of the things we learned from the data coming out of May…is that there was a big difference, especially among people over 50, in whether or not they had two boosts, versus one boost. , versus no boost, versus being unvaccinated. And it was a pretty even gradient,” he said.

Perl said more than 70% of Dallas County hasn’t received a reminder, which may reflect the length of the new wave of infections.

“I would say a lot of it will depend on how people behave. You know, I get that people are great about it. But the reality is there are changes in immunity,” she said. declared. “There are so many things we could do to build immunity right now that would really help us.”

She also recommended a return to wearing face coverings indoors, especially for immunocompromised people or other vulnerable populations.

“I want people to stick together when people wear masks,” she said. “They usually do it for a reason. They’re vulnerable. They’re working with someone who’s vulnerable. They’re living with someone who’s vulnerable. And so there’s a reason they’re wearing a mask. And so, I hope people are in favor of that.”

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