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April 19, 2020

UT-Austin Points to Prolonged Texas Coronavirus Fight
with Projections that Could Throw Abbott Plan Off Track

Governor Issues New Coronavirus Orders

University of Texas COVID-19 Research

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

UT Alters Outlook with Earlier
Coronavirus Death Count Peak

Researchers at the University of Texas revised their coronavirus forecast for the state on Sunday night when they predicted that the death toll would level off later this week. coronavirus death.

The UT-Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium projected there to be a 60 percent chance that the fatality count in Texas will peak in the next seven days.

The team of scientists are tracking the disease at the state's flagship campus hadn't been as optimistic earlier in the day when the estimated the probability of a peak in deaths here in the next week to be 36 percent.

The brightened outlook foresees the number of COVID-19 deaths in Texas climbing from 26 on Sunday to a high of 33 on Wednesday before taking a downward turn by the weekend.

 

Governor Greg Abbott's alma mater could be on the verge of derailing his timetable for resurrecting the Texas economy with a new study that indicates that the state's death toll from the coronavirus might not peak for two weeks or more.

The forecast that researchers at the University of Texas in Austin issued this weekend sharply disputes a highly-publicized projection that the pandemic fatality count would peak on Sunday in the Lone Star State where almost 19,000 people have tested positive for the novel diseases that had claimed 484 lives by noon today.

But the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the state's flagship campus appeared to find a potential silver lining in an otherwise gloomy outlook - revealing that social distancing measures that have been in place in the state's largest cities for most of the past month appear to have reduced the coronavirus spread by an estimated 93 percent based on hospitalization data in the Austin area.

The UT projections that have been forwarded to the federal Centers for Disease Control and the task force that's been advising President Donald Trump on the contagion that has killed more than 39,000 Americans and paralyzed the entire world since its initial detection in China late last year.

The scientists at UT appear to be confident that the unique model that they've developed based on mobile phone data and GPS tracking is a more accurate gauge for predicting the coronavirus march than the University of Washington Health Metrics and Evaluation Institute paradigm that's been widely viewed as the leading indicator up to now for the malady that's baffled the experts and proven them wrong repeatedly.

The HME revised its forecast for the nation and the individual states on Friday when researchers at the public college in Seattle predicted that the death tally in Texas would start to decline this week after peaking today with 34 fatalities here. The UW estimates now that Texas reached a peak four days in terms of the resources that hospitals around the state have available for patients who've been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The UT team appears to be on a similar page with the Health Metrics and Evaluation Institute in terms of the death rate peak nationwide. But the researchers in the Capital City are warning that the apex on virus fatalities in Texas could be more than a week away with a potential peak in early May.

The UT model estimates that there's only an 8 percent chance that the coronavirus death count in Texas has already peaked and a 36 percent chance that the toll will start to decline with the next week. The researchers in Austin have found a 66 percent probability that the death rate will have peaked 14 days from now.

Texas recorded its deadliest day in the coronavirus siege last week when 45 people died here. While the daily death count hovered in the 30s throughout the remainder of the week, the researchers at the University of Texas are predicting that it will climb to more than 40 per day for a week or more starting on Saturday.

New York is the only one of the 10 largest states where the UT team says the peak death day has passed. Texas, Ohio and North Carolina are the only three in the top 10 where the UT estimates the death peak probability rates to be less than 50 percent within the next seven days.

The UT team estimates that California has a 69 percent chance of reaching a peak in coronavirus deaths in the next week as the state with the largest population in the U.S. by far. UT projects virus death toll peak odds at 82 percent and 52 percent in the next week in Michigan and Georgia respectively. Florida has a 69 percent of hitting a peak in the COVID-19 death toll within the next seven days according to the UT study.

California and Michigan - a pair of states with first-term Democratic governors - imposed lockdowns about a week before Abbott implemented a similar policy statewide in Texas. Local leaders who are Democrats in most cases had ordered residents in the cities and counties they lead to shelter in place before Abbott imposed the same basic orders statewide. Abbott and the governors in Georgia and Florida are all Republicans.

The findings at the UT-Austin could have an effect on the economic restart plan that Abbott announced on Friday when he created a special Texas strike force to lead the charge on the development and execution of a containment and reopening strategy. Abbott attended the University of Texas and received his bachelor's degree there before going to law school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

The Austin banker that the Republican governor selected to chair the task force - James Huffines - is a former chairman of the University of Texas System board of regents.

But the coronavirus projections at UT aren't likely to have a diminishing effect on calls from staunch conservatives who have been stepping up calls for an immediate reopening of Texas amid the assertion that the lockdowns that mayors and county judges ordered in March and Abbott extended statewide on April 2 have been dramatic overreactions to an illness that's been far less serious than it's been portrayed.

While the Abbott plan would get Texas back on track sooner than other major states based on a vague timeline that he outlined on Friday, the relatively deliberate approach that he laid out is unacceptable in the eyes of several hundred people who demonstrated Saturday at the Capitol against the restrictions on businesses and social movement.

more to come ...

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