TAMU-CC Researchers Expect COVID-19 Cases to Hit Over 500 New Cases a Day, Precautions Vital for Control

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – With hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 being reported daily across the Coastal Bend, models developed by researchers at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi show new cases could hit over 500 a day by Sunday, although temporary limitations of the testing capacity may impact the numbers.

Dramatic increases will only be slowed when people in the community commit themselves to carefully following precautions, such as social distancing, hand-washing, wearing face coverings, staying at home, and not gathering in groups.

“The rapid increases will continue until the recent measures begin to have an effect,” said Philippe Tissot, Interim Director of the Conrad Blucher Institute (CBI) at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Researchers are hopeful that as behavior changes, the outbreak will begin to slow, as early as Sunday, but the effectiveness of new measures will depend on how seriously people follow the precautions.

“We were able to do it in March; we should be able to do it in July,” Tissot said.

Nueces County has now risen above all other Texas metropolitan areas in the average number of new cases per day per capita, surpassing even Austin and Lubbock. While data from April and May typically showed new cases per capita per day in San Antonio at more than two times the level of Nueces County, now Nueces County has more than two times as many cases per capita as San Antonio.

Researchers also reported the number of cases in Nueces County is increasing more rapidly than almost any other city in Texas, trailing only College Station-Bryan and Laredo.

Dr. Chris Bird, Associate Professor of Biology at A&M-Corpus Christi, noted that even rural areas are experiencing high levels of positive cases of COVID-19.

“You can’t hide from COVID in the lesser-populated areas of the Coastal Bend,” he said. With the virus so prevalent in South Texas, the importance of taking precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus are more important than ever, and wearing a mask should be as common as wearing shoes and a shirt into a business.

“No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service,” he said, referring to a sign commonly seen at business entrances. Wearing a mask is now mandatory in public buildings, businesses and when using public transportation in Nueces County, and will be mandatory across Texas starting Friday.

Bird stressed the effectiveness of wearing a face covering.

“They protect you and the people around you,” he said.

In a regular weekly news conference today, July 2, Bird also gave an update on cell phone data that showed in some categories, people are going out less frequently, but in other areas, no change has yet been seen.

A major concern is how fast the transmission rate has grown, making it almost impossible to measure. With hundreds of new cases every day, widespread transmission of the virus is almost inevitable with even minimal transmission from one person to another.

Bird, Tissot, and other members of a special task force are preparing in-depth reports and public presentations each week for the City of Corpus Christi and Nueces County that model the course of the virus across the Coastal Bend.

The team’s presentations and findings can be seen on a special dashboard: https://www.conradblucherinstitute.org/covid19.