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COVID-19 case count August 20: Harris County surpasses 1,100 virus deaths

The city of Houston announced 14 newly reported coronavirus deaths, bringing the total for Harris County including the city to 1,109.

HOUSTON — Texas' Department of State Health Services announced 4,923 new COVID-19 cases and 234 newly reported deaths on Thursday.

The state also added 380 backlogged cases to the state total, bringing it to 562,559. Texas now reports 10,793 deaths from coronavirus.

The current number of COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals decreased again to 5,635, the lowest since June 29.

The state seven-day average positivity rate, which is still affected by several lab backlogs and an upgrade to DSHS's test processing computer system, now sits at 14.13 percent. On Wednesday, it was 10.81 percent. On August 11, it was 24.5 percent.

Harris County, outside the city of Houston, reported 454 new cases and 13 newly reported deaths.

The city of Houston reported 501 new cases and 14 newly reported deaths, bringing the city's total cases to 59,404 and 679 deaths.

Over the last seven days, August 14 - August 20, the average daily new case counts in Houston and Harris County are both lower than the average daily new cases over the previous seven days (August 7 - August 13).

In Houston and Harris County combined, 95,631 total coronavirus cases and 1,122 deaths have been reported.

Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse announced Wednesday that the health department is also working through the backlog from the state: eliminating any possible duplicates, and checking for residency of the people whose test results came back.

The good news, he said, is that the number of COVID-19 patients in the Texas Medical Center is decreasing: the average number of new admissions is down, as is the "census," or total patients in the hospital with the virus. He said patients in the ICU are decreasing, too.

He announced that the city's positivity rate is 15.9 percent, and that the backlog is affecting that number, too.

“The positivity rate is decreasing, wearing masks is working, avoiding large gatherings is working," said Dr. Persse on Wednesday. “While this is good information, I remain concerned that we have so few people going to get tested that at some point that will cross a threshold where its predictability will be tarnished. There won’t be enough of a sample to know what’s going on in the community.”

He also noted that negative test results take longer to process than positive test results, which can also skew the positivity rate.

In Fort Bend County, a spokesperson for the department of Health and Human Services said testing is down 60 percent compared to five weeks ago.

A spokesperson says they don’t have a concrete answer for why fewer people are getting tested, but that "it’s the only way to know" if you have the virus or not.

Despite the lower testing, new cases outside of the backlogs are going up.

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