Data Model Shows El Paso COVID-19 Hospitalizations Are Likely To Exceed Capacity Within Weeks

The University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium track hospitalizations and ICU patients across the state.

By Rhonda Fanning & Shelly BrisbinOctober 23, 2020 11:17 am,

The state of Texas is deploying resources to El Paso where COVID-19 cases are spiking. Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday he is sending hundreds of medical experts, along with medical equipment, to the region.

Lauren Ancel Meyers is a professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin. She leads the UT-Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. She told Texas Standard that hospitals are expected to experience shortages of ICU beds in the coming weeks. The Modeling Consortium maintains a dashboard that shows forecasts for hospitalization and ICU patients in regions across Texas. 

“El Paso, along with other parts of the state, have entered a steep and alarming trajectory in terms of the number of daily hospitalizations and ICU patients,” Meyers said. 

The model projects that within three weeks, El Paso has a 96% chance of exceeding its ICU capacity, and an 85% chance of exceeding overall hospital capacity. The projections were made Oct. 18. 

Meyers said experience has shown that COVID-19 spreads most quickly when people don’t follow guidelines on social distancing and mask-wearing, along with staying at home unless travel is necessary, and letting their guard down. But her group’s data doesn’t address the root causes of increased cases of COVID-19.

“When we make these projections, we aren’t looking at case reports,” she said. “We’re actually only looking at two things: we’re looking at the total number of people who are hospitalized for COVID on a daily basis, and we’re also looking at cell phone mobility data.”

Cell phone data shows that “people are going out in public much more often than they were back in April, or even than they were back in July.

COVID-19 Modeling Consortium data is available online, organized by state regions. 

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