The active case count is the highest to be reported in the county since the pandemic began, surpassing a previous high of 48,260 in July, which was reached before the county adjusted its definition of recovered cases. Unlike the July estimate, the active case estimate reported Jan. 20 does not include any cases for which it has been 28 days or more since the case was reported or released from the hospital and the person has not died.
New cases in Harris County have been increasing at a rate of roughly 3,022 per day over the past week, according to a Community Impact Newspaper analysis of county data. The per day average topped 3,000 for the first time Jan. 14, another record for the county.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Harris County hospitals also rose over the past week. The patient count in general wards was flat over the past week, coming in at 1,699 on Jan. 20. However, the patient count in intensive care units hit 595 on Jan. 20, up from 570 on Jan. 13, according to the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council.
The ICU patient count hit a previous high of more than 840 in July, at which time roughly half of ICU patients in Harris County hospitals had COVID-19. That percentage was around 38.2% on Jan. 20, according to SETRAC. Base ICU capacity in Texas Medical Center hospitals is still completely filled, with about 150 beds occupied of the 373 available in the first phase of surge capacity.
The 14-day average for testing positivity in Harris County plateaued after several weeks of increases. An average of 19.4% of tests were coming back positive as of the most recent data from Jan. 13, which was down from an average of 19.9% from one week prior. The TMC also reported an effective reproduction rate for the virus of 0.95 on Jan. 19, indicating a slowdown in the spread of the virus in recent days.
The total case count in Harris County now stands at 290,249, including 51,362 active cases, 236,069 recovered cases and 2,801 deaths. In total, 85 deaths caused by COVID-19 have been confirmed over the past week.