One of the most difficult parts of navigating our new reality is the unknown: Will I get sick? Will my loved ones be safe? When will it end? We have yet to learn many of the answers, but newly released projections are providing a potential timeline for when COVID-19 will peak in San Antonio.
The new data, released on April 15, was complied by four different research teams for the City of San Antonio using mobility data, hospital resources, population density, and current case counts from the Centers for Disease Control and Texas DSHS, and other factors.
If current stay home/work safe and social distancing measures remain in place, most models project San Antonio's COVID-19 pandemic to peak in early May. As a state, Texas is projected to hit its peak on April 29.
Interestingly, each team came up with differing conclusions — including wildly different answers for the number of cases expected in San Antonio — something that city officials say could help them prepare for a variety of different scenarios.
“The public should think of these models like they would a hurricane tracking model. They provide a range of data estimates for officials to consider along with a host of other information to make informed decisions on how to continue slowing the spread of COVID-19," explains assistant city manager Dr. Colleen Bridger.
The projections, however, do not mean that cases will end. Instead, they are an estimate as to when we can expect medical resources to hit peak use, aka, when hospitals are treating the most patients for COVID-19.
“Making it through the peak of this pandemic doesn’t mean it’s over. San Antonio will continue dealing with COVID-19 for months after the peak and we should continue to practice social distancing and good hygiene," says Bridger.
The first study, conducted by University of Texas at San Antonio, UT Health, and SwRI, analyzed four potential timelines to determine what would happen if:
- Current social distancing measures remain in place
- 20 percent of the population returning to "normal mobility" (basically, conducting themselves as they did pre-pandemic)
- 50 percent of the population returning to "normal mobility"
- 100 percent of the population returning to "normal mobility"
If current measures stay in place, the model predicts a total 30,000 cases of COVID-19 through July, and suggest the current social distancing measures be kept in effect for the next two months. If 20 percent were to return to business as usual, that case number would hit 168,000 by July. If half the population stopped social distancing, that number would climb 641,000 by June. And if those measures were to lift immediately, San Antonio's COVID-19 cases could potentially soar to 800,000 within one month.
The second model was conducted by Dr. Juan B. Gutierrez, Chair of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Mathematics Department. His model analyzed these four timelines:
- If no social distancing measures had been in place
- If the Stay Home Work Safe Orders are lifted completely
- If high levels of social distancing continue
- If the Stay Home Work Safe Orders are lifted but medium levels of social distancing continue
Gutierrez's model predicts that if no social distancing measures been put in place, San Antonio would have seen a mind-boggling 900,000 cases of the novel coronavirus.
“An early response prevented an explosion in the number of cases. Had the Mayor and County Judge not acted early, the crisis would have been significantly larger," Gutierrez says in his report. "The city lockdown has slowed down the progression of the disease [and] allowed the health system to prepare for what is likely to be an inevitable surge."
The third model, Oliver Wyman COVID-19 Pandemic Navigator, was perhaps the most optimistic, predicting just 1,700 cases through May, with a peak in late April. It's important to note, however, that this model assumed that the current social distancing measures were in place.
The fourth model was conducted by the University of Washington, the state with that is among highest impacted by the virus. That model did not predict a number of cases, but did predict a late April peak as well.
As of April 16, San Antonio-Bexar County had 890 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 37 deaths.