State adjusts surging total COVID-19 deaths slightly lower

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — State health officials have lowered their surging total COVID-19 death count slightly, saying an automation error in a switch in its counting method erroneously added about 225 fatalities to the total.

The Department of State Health Services reported 8,800 new confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday and 322 new deaths blamed directly on COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. The total caseload since the outbreak started in March was just over 412,000, while the revised total death toll was held to 6,274.

The true number of cases in Texas is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to fall, declining by 299 cases to 9,296 patients hospitalized.

The state’s rolling rate of positive tests continued a slow decline as it fell to 12.09%, its lowest mark in more than a month.

State health officials changed how they compiled fatality data this week by using the cause of death listed on death certificates, instead of waiting for local and regional public health authorities to report them. Death certificates are required by law to be filed within 10 days. Consequently, the death toll for recent days is expected to grow as more death certificates are filed for those dates.

Only deaths directly attributed to the COVID-19 virus are counted. This method does not include deaths of people who had COVID-19 but died of an unrelated cause, health officials said.

Also, only those with infections of the new coronavirus confirmed by testing are counted; no probable cases are included.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

But the surge in COVID-19 deaths still has been marked. During a news conference Thursday in Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said that of the 432 COVID-19 deaths in the city, 200 of those have been reported in July.

The city’s Hispanic community has been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic, accounting for approximately 40% of cases and 45% of deaths, Turner said.

“The COVID-19 virus is still hitting Houston hard. Our numbers are still too high and while (hospitalizations) are going down, we’re still in the worst part of the epidemic,” Turner said.

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