Kerr County reported its 16th death in February from COVID-19 on Saturday — the virus has killed at least 34 since Jan. 1.
The numbers across the state have declined dramatically as the omicron variant continues to wane. However, the death toll continues to mount. Since Jan. 1, more than 8,800 Texans have died from COVID-19. The latest Kerr County death happened on Feb. 26.
The good news is about 15,000 people tested positive for the virus over the last week — when that number was a daily statistic just two weeks ago. The number of hospitalizations dipped below 3,000 statewide for the first time since Dec. 5.
Even as Peterson Health has ceded its duties as the keeper of local COVID-19 data, we can still get a pretty good look at the virus' impact on Peterson Regional Medical Center.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires hospitals across the country, including Peterson, to file detailed records of the virus, along with its staffing impact. Since July 31, 2020, Peterson had just one week where it reported no COVID-19 patients — May 7, 2021.
The situation with COVID-19 comes into greater focus when looking at the data. While we still wrestle with the political denial of the virus, there are so many missing data points from the Health and Human Services Department that it raises plenty of questions. Our colleague at Meta Bulletin, Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency room physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard University, explained the problem this way:
"Since 2020, HHS has been instructing hospitals to report not the normal number of patients they can safely treat, but rather, the number of staffed beds they might possibly be able to scare up in worst-case scenarios," Faust wrote in his Bulletin website Inside Medicine. "As a result, HHS's public reporting on hospital capacity more closely resembles fire capacity than safe care capacity. Under the current reporting system, there is no distinction between inpatient beds in cardiac units and gurneys lining the hallways. Even chapel spaces and parking garages hastily converted into care areas "count" as "staffed inpatient beds," as far as HHS is concerned."
So, how serious was COVID-19 on Kerrville? Well, let's put it this way: In January of 2021, more than half of all admissions were COVID-19 patients. On Jan. 15, 2021, Peterson reported 51 people hospitalized with COVID-19.
Since July 2020, Peterson's aggregate hospitalizations have been more than 1,200 people. Those aren't all Kerr County residents, but not all Kerr County residents received treatment at Peterson. Considering most fatalities appear to have happened outside Kerr County, we suspect that the hospitalization figure is low.
And the underlying issue, especially for the naysayers, is that mortality was high if you were sick enough to be admitted. Our napkin math says maybe as high as 17% of people hospitalized died — if all 1,200 are from Kerr County and correct reporting of fatalities (our estimate is about 215 people).
The omicron variant challenged those numbers but thankfully leveled off. However, since everything associated with the virus is political, there are questions that still need answers, such as:
- How many vaccinated and unvaccinated people were cared for at Peterson?
- How many people were transferred to San Antonio hospitals, and do those count as initial hospitalization in Kerrville?
- Of those who died, how many died after receiving treatments that were not available in Kerrville?
Those are just some of the questions we've attempted to gain answers to, but it appears we're still months or years away from getting to the bottom of the seriousness of coronavirus. However, the one thing we're sure of is that this virus beat us — and for all the wrong reasons.