May 8, 2020

Coronavirus Trackers Warn Texas to Brace
for Death Toll Spike Amid Reopening in May

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

The forecast for coronavirus fatalities in Texas is rising dramatically in tandem with the state's reopening at a rate that's also a reflection of an increase in testing that has been the most glaring weakness here in the first two months since the initial outbreak.

The virus trackers at the University of Texas revised their projections on Friday with an estimate now of 836 more deaths from COVID-19 infections in the next three weeks in a state where the disease had claimed 1,004 lives by noon.

A team of counterparts at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle isn't quite as optimistic with a projected 931 deaths from the coronavirus in Texas between now and May 29. The IHME - a division of the University of Washington - had predicted in the final 10 days of April that the cumulative death toll for the Lone Star State in a span of almost six months through early August would be a total of 956.

The UW scientists who are monitoring the pandemic estimate that the Texas death toll will reach 1,935 in the next three weeks when the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium predicts that 1,804 people will have died around the state by the same point in time.

UT had estimated that the death count in Texas had peaked midway through April before altering the outlook substantially after Governor Greg Abbott began laying out a timetable for the reopening of businesses that he'd deemed to be nonessential had shut down for a month. The Texas fatality tally hit its highest point for a 24-hour period on April 30 - the day before Abbott gave restaurants, movie theaters, retailers and malls permission to open with social distancing and sanitation standards that they are required to enforce.

After averaging almost 27 deaths a day throughout the past week based on Department of State Health Services data, the scientists at the state's flagship university in Austin foresee the fatality count with 42 deaths projected on May 20 before the number of new infections starts to decline again. The UT team estimates there to be a 35 percent count that the death toll will peak in the next seven days with a 68 percent chance that it will have reached the apex at the end of the next two weeks.

The scientists at UT are warning that the Dallas-Fort Worth area could take the biggest hit with the current coronavirus death count of 282 shooting all the way up to 786 by May 29.

The Houston metropolitan area that's recorded 232 fatalities from virus infections up to now could expect to see 239 more people die there in the next three weeks based on the UT model.

The death toll in the Austin area would more than double as well with a count that stands at 71 now vaulting to 151 in the next 21 days according to the coronavirus analysts in the Capital City. The scientists at UT project the fatality count in the El Paso area to jump from 23 to 53 between now and May 29.

Texas had reported a total of 36,609 virus infections by noon on Friday based on the state agency tally. But Abbott and other state officials appear to have abandoned the initial goal of flattening the curve with the daily increases in confirmed cases and deaths on a roller coaster ride and magnified to a significant degree by a higher priority in testing across the state.


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