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CDC Data Contradict Julián Castro’s Texas COVID-19 Claims

Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in Texas, but it doesn’t have the “highest COVID positivity rate and case count in the nation” — contrary to what Democrat Julián Castro recently tweeted.

Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio and secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration, highlighted the situation in Texas in a July 15 tweet criticizing the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott.

 

Castro was right about the percentage increase in COVID-19 related hospitalizations in Texas, which, according to state government data, grew from a recent low of 1,428 on June 27 to 2,519 on July 14, the day before his tweet was sent. Hospitalizations in the state have continued to increase in the days since, climbing to 3,046 on July 18. That’s an increase of 113% since June 27.

However, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data contradict his claims about Texas having the highest test positivity rate and case counts.

Texas’ seven-day test positivity was between 8% and 9.9%, according to CDC data compiled as of July 15. That is the percentage of Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests, or NAATs, for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, that have come back positive.

At least four states — Louisiana, Arizona, Kansas and Mississippi — were within that same percentage range as Texas. And at least five other states — Arkansas, Florida, Utah, Nevada and Oklahoma — had a test positivity range of 10% to 14.9%.

As of July 19, Texas’ seven-day test positivity was in the range of 10% to 14.9%, along with at least 10 other states. At least one state — Nevada — was in the range of 15% to 19.9%.

The CDC says data were not available for all states.

CDC map based on data as of July 15.

 

Also, based strictly on the number of COVID-19 cases in the last seven days, Texas’ 16,569 cases ranked second behind Florida’s 39,349, according to CDC counts as of July 15. That’s not so surprising, considering that Florida and Texas are the two most populous U.S. states behind California — which ranked third in total COVID-19 cases in that period.

But when measured by cases for every 100,000 people — which allows for comparisons between states with different population sizes — Texas is much further down on the list.

As of July 15, Texas had a COVID-19 case rate of 57.1 per 100,000 people in the last seven days, per the CDC. That was a lower rate than 14 other states, from a high of 237.4 cases per 100,000 in Arkansas to 58.4 cases per 100,000 in Washington. In between those states were: Missouri (203), Florida (183.2), Nevada (153.6), Louisiana (151.4), Utah (112.4), Wyoming (102.6), Oklahoma (94.2), Kansas (91.9), Mississippi (88.3), Alabama (83.6), Alaska (70.1) and Arizona (76.5).

As of July 19, Texas had a rate of 75.5 cases per 100,00 people in the previous seven days. That was still lower than 12 states.

CDC map based on data as of July 15.

 

It’s worth noting that several of the states with the highest case rates in that time period also happen to be among the states with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates.

According to CDC data as of July 19, none of the 13 states with the highest seven-day case rates, including Texas, have had more than 60% of their residents get at least one dose of the available vaccines. Out of those states, Florida had the highest percentage (55.6%) with at least one shot, and Louisiana had the lowest (39.9%). Texas was at 49.8%.

“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a July 16 press briefing by the White House COVID-19 response team. She noted that “over 97% of people who are entering the hospital right now” with COVID-19 “are unvaccinated.”

That’s similar to remarks she made in a July 1 briefing, when she said that “preliminary data from a collection of states” since January indicated that “99.5% of deaths from COVID-19 in these states have occurred in unvaccinated people.”

The Associated Press similarly reported in late June that “nearly all” — or about 99.2% — of the people in the U.S. who died from COVID-19 in May were not vaccinated. The unvaccinated accounted for nearly 99% of the COVID-19 related hospitalizations that month, as well, the AP said.

We asked Castro’s office which metrics or sources of data he relied upon for his claims, but we did not receive a response. The CDC data we found don’t support what he said about Texas’ COVID-19 positivity rate and case count.

Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over our editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.

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