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Coastal Bend COVID-19 cases increase with state

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi created this interactive desktop dashboard of COVID-19 data as part of a joint task force with the city of Corpus Christi and Nueces County. The information is available at Courtesy image

Texas is now reporting record numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations after moving into Phase III of a four-phase plan to reopen businesses and lift stay-at-home orders. In Corpus Christi, cases are also increasing, although South Texas recorded the lowest number of new cases of any other region in the state. As of Monday, June 15, Texas has reported 88,160 cases, the second highest in the nation after California. Total number of deaths in Texas was 1,976. Nueces County had 336 reported cases and four deaths.

On June 14, the state reported a record number of cases in one day: 1,843. The death toll rose by 19 in that same period. Sunday was a culmination of a string of days recording high numbers in the state.

Memorial Day outings are partially to blame for a bump in the number of COVID-19 cases reported, said Dr. Chris Bird, associate professor of biology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi during his weekly joint Corpus Christi/Nueces County briefing June 12. He also attributed the increase to people returning to work and visiting restaurants and bars as the state continues to reopen businesses under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Strike Force to Open Texas.

“One month of Open Texas, and it looked good,” Bird said. “One month and one week, and things are different. This week is one of the highest weeks (in Nueces County) since we began counting.”

Bird is part of a team of TAMU-CC researchers mapping the effects of COVID-19 on Texas and the Coastal Bend. He called the upward trend concerning.

“People really need to pay attention right now,” he said. “This is the way exponential works.”

The number of tests being performed has greatly increased, which means more positives, he explained. However, a higher proportion of tests are coming back positive. In the beginning of the pandemic, patients had a 1-2 percent chance of a positive result on a COVID-19 test. In the past week, that chance has increased to 4 percent.

The June 12 report to Corpus Christi and Nueces County officials and the media included information obtained through smartphone data, which is now free to scientists. Bird assured that the information comes without individual identification.

“But we can tell where home is and where a person went. We just can’t tell who went there,” he said.

Charts show that “people are 66 percent on the way back to leaving home.” The remaining 33 percent are staying at home.

Traveling has increased, spiking dramatically on Memorial Day weekend. Bird said he expects another uptick in COVID-19 cases after Fourth of July weekend, “barring any major change in our behavior.”

Smartphone data shows the most traffic at home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and The Home Depot. Trips to the mall are now on par with trips to the grocery store.

The transmission rate for COVID-19 without taking preventive measures is 2.9 people infected per carrier. In the previous week, it was 2.7 percent. When interventions were in place, the rate was about 0.9 percent.

The good news is hospitals are still within capacity to handle COVID-19 cases as well as other health issues.

“It’s important to realize we have control over this,” Bird said. “We changed our behaviors, and COVID-19 started back. Wearing a mask makes a difference. It’s important to wear a face covering whether you have symptoms or not. Stay at home if you can. Postpone social gatherings or have them online. And self-isolate when symptomatic.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you think you have COVID-19, contact the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District at 361-826-7200, and a representative will give you instructions. Check the city’s webpage for more information.

To follow the latest news on COVID-19 in Corpus Christi, check the Corpus Christi Business News' COVID-19 Resource Page.

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