Austin Mayor Steve Adler, UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell speak at UT COVID-19 Conference

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of UT COVID-19 Conference Committee | Daily Texan Staff

Austin Mayor Steve Adler commended UT’s COVID-19 research Wednesday at the UT COVID-19 Conference.

The two-day conference showcased UT researchers’ COVID-19 findings and featured Adler as a keynote speaker. Adler said UT has handled the virus well on campus.

"It's pretty extraordinary that a university this large, so integrated with our city, that we’re not seeing community transmission, the kind that we feared might occur," Adler said.

Adler said he thanks UT researchers and frontline medical staff that have focused on the pandemic, including Lauren Ancel Meyers, the director of the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. 

“It's so important to have the right data to make informed decisions,” Adler said. “In so many ways, Dr. Meyers and the (UT) COVID-19 Modeling Consortium was our flashlight into a dark room.”

The consortium helped create the “Key Indicators For Staging” dashboard used by Austin Public Health to determine what stage of COVID-19 restrictions are necessary to prevent further spread, Meyers said Tuesday

The dashboard features a color-coded risk map so users can see potential trigger points for any new citywide restrictions related to the coronavirus, according to the dashboard. 

“Not only did that modeling enable us to better protect public health, but it enabled us to educate our community,” Adler said. 

Adler said the virus is disproportionately affecting marginalized communities in Austin. 

“Black and Latino Austinites (are) getting infected and dying at higher rates than their white neighbors,” Adler said. “This virus showed us the generational vulnerability of neighbors of color (who) have been systemically denied access to health care resources. We saw during the pandemic that the health of immigrants, folks that don't have resources, folks without homes — their health is interconnected with our own.”

Adler said the research being done at UT will help Austin recuperate from the effects of the virus. 

“The application of your talents, the researchers here, is critical to helping us end this virus and come out of this virus as a stronger, healthier, more just, more equitable community,” Adler said.

Wednesday’s conference also included panels on COVID-19’s effects on mental health, inequity and the Latinx community, as well as a panel covering the virus itself and vaccines, diagnostics and antivirals. 

UT President Jay Hartzell said the University’s research in many fields of study is critical to addressing the pandemic. 

“At a university like UT, COVID-19 research and efforts go far beyond studying the virus itself,” Hartzell said. “Our scholars are asking questions about the effects of the pandemic on mental health, family dynamics and well-being, the workplace and education, and within historically marginalized communities.