As Texas reports 10th straight day of record-high coronavirus hospitalizations, ex-FDA chief warns outbreaks could be ‘tipping over into exponential growth’

Vanessa Zubia-Meza and her mother Margie Zubia are pictured in the window of their new restaurant called El Paseo on May 18, 2020 in downtown El Paso, Texas

PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images

Monday marks the 10th consecutive day that the number of coronavirus hospitalizations in Texas increased.

On June 11, 2,008 people were hospitalized, but that number has now hit 3,409, according to state data.

The number of new cases is also ticking upward. On Sunday, Texas reported 4,430 new infections, which is an all-time high since the outbreak began.

Former FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that “this week’s going to really be a pivotal week for us to get a picture of where things are heading” in states like Texas.

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Texas embarked on an aggressive reopening last month, with some lockdown measures lifted from businesses in the state as early as May 1. Depending on the nature of the establishments, normal operations began incrementally, though coronavirus-related restrictions remained in place.

Initially, cases declined, prompting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to tweet on May 25: “Today Texas had the fewest #COVID19 fatalities since the end of March. We also had the fewest COVID hospitalizations since the middle of April. And, we have the 2nd most recoveries from COVID in America.”

However, that trend has since reversed.

Monday marked the 10th straight day that the number of coronavirus hospitalizations in Texas increased, according to data from the state’s Department of Public Health. On June 11, 2,008 people were hospitalized, but by Monday, that number was up to 3,409.

The number of new cases has also been on the rise. June 10 marked the first time that the number of new infection crossed 2,000; officials reported 2,504 cases that day. Followed by a slight dip, the cases climbed to 2,622 on June 16, after which they shot past 3,000 and even reached 4,430 — an all-time high since the outbreak began — on June 20. The 3,866 cases reported Sunday marked the second-highest number of new reported cases in the state.

On May 14, 58 people were reported dead of COVID-19 in Texas. Since that record high, the fatality trend has ebbed and flowed. Seventeen deaths were reported on Monday, meaning the fatalities aren’t keeping up with the uptick in new cases or hospitalizations.

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Despite calling for calm, Abbott said on June 16 that the outbreak is worsening because of young people.

“There are certain counties where a majority of the people who are tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to the bar-type settings,” he said.

Abbott also denounced those who flout guidelines about social distancing and wearing face masks.

“We think we can also accurately say there has been an increase — especially beginning around the Memorial Day time period and going through a few weeks after that — an increase in people testing positive because they may not be practicing all these safe standards,” Abbott said.

On Sunday, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended the licenses of a dozen Texan bars for failing to follow restrictions that remain in place to curb the infection’s spread, KSAT reported.

With 112,944 cases and 2,191 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, Texas is now the fifth worst-hit state in the United States.

Former Food and Drug Administration Chief Scott Gottlieb told CNBC that Texas is among a slew of states that “are on the cusp of getting out of control.”

“I think these states still have a week or two to take actions to try to get these under control,” he added.

Gottleib pointed to the worsening coronavirus outbreaks in the American South and West, saying the US was approaching a “pivotal week” to forecast exponential growth. 

“I think this week’s going to really be a pivotal week for us to get a picture of where things are heading in states like Florida and Arizona and Texas, whether or not they’re tipping over into exponential growth or not,” he said. “The problem is with exponential growth everything looks sort of okay until all of a sudden it doesn’t.”

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