UTSA professor creating COVID-19 models says San Antonio in solid shape, but concern now is second wave

Dr. Juan Gutierrez expects next set of models to show increase in cases due to loosening restrictions in Texas

SAN ANTONIO – Over the past two weeks, the state of Texas has loosened or removed its stay-at-home orders to help jumpstart the economy.

That is expected to have an impact on the overall amount of COVID-19 cases in Texas. How much of an impact is now the question.

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Dr. Juan Gutierrez, the chair of mathematics at UTSA, created one of the COVID-19 models that is being used by the City of San Antonio and Bexar County.

His first set of predictions under the previous stay at home orders were on the mark. The models predicted an estimated 1,800 cases by early May.

But with businesses and restaurants reopening, the models are expected to see another shift.

“The number of cases is likely to increase due to our increase in contacts that will bring together people who are susceptible and people who might be infected,” said Gutierrez.

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Under previous restrictions, Bexar County had already reached its peak and flattened the curve. The peak could now change with new data from the state partially reopening.

Gutierrez expects the models on May 15, two weeks after the state lifted its executive order, to reflect the changes and give us a better idea of when a possible second wave will hit.

“We could experience it very soon,” said Gutierrez. “How big is the second wave going to be? We have to wait how people react, how seriously do people take social distancing and wearing face masks and proper sanitation. These very simple measures will allow us to keep this terrible disease at bay.”

Social distancing and wearing a mask in public are still vital to slowing down the infection rate because asymptomatic people continue to test positive for the virus.

Asymptomatic people are now being tested in Bexar County, but it’s ultimately a waiting game.

Gutierrez said an increase in cases doesn’t necessarily indicate we are trending in the wrong direction, just looking at a broader picture.

“As surveillance evolves, the results of modeling also evolve. Not necessarily because the disease has changed just because our observations of the disease have changed,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez understands businesses, shops and restaurants have to reopen so people can make a living and put food on the table.

But he wants the public to keep in mind we are far from moving past COVID-19 in San Antonio.

“We want to keep it as minimum as possible and the impact in the health of our community, so we have to find a balance,” said Gutierrez. “We are still going through it. We have to maintain the protective measures that have made of San Antonio an exception among metropolitan cities in Texas.”

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