UT COVID-19 modeling consortium predicts surges in the Austin, Round Rock areas


Itza Martinez, News Reporter

The probability the COVID-19 epidemic is growing in the Austin area is 91%, and the University’s Modeling Consortium team predicts COVID-19 cases will surge if the community relaxes COVID-19 safety precautions as the city moves toward lessening safety recommendations.

Austin is close to falling into stage 2 of its COVID-19 risk based guidelines, which would recommend citizens take precautions such as masking while traveling. Under current stage 3 guidelines, health experts recommend people practice precautions in indoor private gatherings. David Morton, lead consortium collaborator, said if citizens become more relaxed on COVID-19 precautions, there could be a resurgence of cases in the wintertime.

“The thing that’s changed recently is based on the dangers of dropping to green,” Morton said. “There’s certainly that danger that if community behavior … relaxes, then we could see a surge and we see that in a number of our projections in like the November, December, January timeframe.”

The COVID-19 risk system uses a seven day moving average of new COVID-19 hospital admissions to determine the stage of risk because of the early accessibility of the information and it’s reliability as a metric. While seven day moving averages for hospital patients are decreasing, the consortium still predicts the potential for lax health precautions mixed with the holidays and the Delta variant could cause a resurgence similar to what the city saw last winter.

Terrance Hines, University Health Services’ chief medical officer, said the best things people can do to stay safe, especially as the holiday season approaches, is to get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu shot, wear a mask and socially distance.

“It’s definitely easy and a temptation when you’re around family and friends … to sometimes relax a little bit too much,” Hines said. “Household settings are one of the most common places that we do see transmission. If there are folks that you’re going to be around who are immunocompromised or at greater risk of severe disease … take those precautions.”

Journalism freshman Lindsey Plotkin said she plans to do everything she can to keep herself and others safe during Thanksgiving break, including wearing a mask in public spaces. Plotkin said she is not too worried about the surge for her own health but is concerned about her loved ones who are immunocompromised.

“This is something we’ve seen before, we should know how to handle it,” Plotkin said. “It’s just kind of a matter of will people react the right way.”