TAMU-CC Researchers Urge Continued Caution Despite Peak in COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Researchers at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are watching data that shows a hopeful peak in the number of cases of COVID-19 as well as the number of hospitalizations and people in the ICU, but warn that now is not the time to let down our guard.

“We peaked in cases, we peaked in total hospitalizations, we are peaking in the numbers of people in the ICU, and fatalities,” said Dr. Chris Bird, Associate Professor of Biology at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Bird gave a weekly update Friday, July 31, on the data being tracked and modeled by a special task force.

However, Bird is concerned by other data that shows a slowdown in social distancing, measured by cell phone encounters. He noted that cell phone encounters were dropping during recent weeks but now appear to have leveled off or started to increase.

“It’s important that we don’t let up now,” he said. “It’s looking like cabin fever, apathy, boredom, or just being tired of it is setting in.”

Other models updated in Bird’s report showed there have been more than 12,000 reported cases in the Coastal Bend since March, with more than 6,100 active cases. The research team is following the Centers for Disease Control estimate that about 10 times more cases are active than the number who test positive, giving the Coastal Bend an estimated 60,000 cases or more. That translates to one in 10 people in the community are infected.

Bird said while South Texas still leads all other areas of the state in the number of new cases per day per 100,000 people, the number of new cases appears to be declining. But because the numbers are so high in most categories, even a downturn does not mean precautions can be ignored.

“Because there are just so many people who have COVID now, just a little change in behavior, just wearing masks a little less, distancing a little less, has a much bigger impact now than it would have had in March, April and May,” said Dr. Philippe Tissot, Interim Director of the Conrad Blucher Institute at A&M-Corpus Christi.

The researchers urge people in the community to commit themselves to carefully following precautions, such as social distancing, hand-washing, wearing face coverings, staying at home, and not gathering in groups in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The task force also recommends being particularly careful about attending family gatherings with relatives one may not see every day, including funerals, baby showers, weddings, and other family events. The public is especially cautioned to avoid contacts with older members of their families.

Tissot, Bird and other members of the 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.