Has Texas flattened the curve enough to reopen bars?

In two days Texas bars will be able to reopen along will bowling alleys, rodeos and more, and restaurants will expand to 50 percent capacity. Some people say it’s too soon—that the curve hasn’t flattened enough.

There are a lot of different curves to look at when analyzing coronavirus data, but an important one that health and government officials are looking to flatten is the daily new case count curve. Harris county data shows not only has it flattened, it’s on the decline.

The graph on the Harris County Health Department’s website shows the daily number of new cases of COVID-19 dating February 10 through May 19. It reaches a high point the week of April 9th when 257 new cases were reported in one day, but the curve never goes higher. Entering May, the curve makes a noticeable decline, and by the 19th, just 15 new cases were reported.

Looking statewide the Texas Department of State Health Services created a graph that shows the cumulative cases and the daily case count. The cumulative number goes steadily up over time, and of course it will only go up because it doesn’t factor in recoveries. But the daily case count number is quite flat.

There was a small spike last Saturday when 1801 cases were reported in one day--a record high in daily new cases--which led to some criticism of Governor Greg Abbott for moving forward with the next phase of reopening.

Abbott responded to that criticism on Fox 26 Wednesday.

“There will be days when it goes up, days when it goes down,” said Abbott. “For example today there’s only 935 cases which is half the amount that you talked about.”

Nationally the curve is also on the decline, according to the graph from Johns Hopkins University showing a peak of 34,126 daily new cases in April, and then a slow decline in those numbers heading into May.

LIVE: Interactive Coronavirus case data and map

The Texas governor says those numbers will be impacted as testing is more available.

“One reason the numbers are going up is because we are testing far more than ever before,” said Abbott.

The whole point of flattening the curve was to make sure coronavirus spreads slowly enough that hospitals don’t max out their capacity and their ability to treat the disease. Texas so far has not had that problem.

Abbott says the main curve that needs to go down for reopening Texas is the percentage of people tested who come back positive. He says in the past month that curve has steadily sloped down from 13.86 percent to less than 4.97 percent.

Now the question is whether the curve will head back uphill with the new phase of re-openings this week.