Experts: COVID-19 cases in Houston could dramatically increase if reopening stays on track

New research predicts thousands of new coronavirus cases per day in Harris County if things continue to re-open.

PolicyLab Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia used current testing numbers, social distancing rules, cellphone data, and other information, to make the latest projections. On Friday, we interviewed PolicyLab Director Dr. David Rubin about the newest model.

“I’m worried about Houston, to be honest with you,” said Dr. Rubin. “Of all of the areas in the country, I’m blasting my warning lights for Texas.”

According to PolicyLab’s latest model, Harris County has been averaging roughly 200 new COVID-19 positive cases per day since March. However, the projections indicate a steep climb towards a new average of roughly 2,500 new COVID-19 patients per day in Harris County by mid-June.

“If you guys continue to open and assume some sort of invincibility, like skepticism, you will become the epicenter,” said Dr. Rubin. “At that point, you’ll be playing hindsight. If you guys are going to crowd into a bar without your masks on in the middle of Houston right now, you’re asking for trouble. Whether you get sick, or you bring it home to your mom, that’s a big deal.”

On Friday, more businesses continued to re-open across Texas. We met customers at area restaurants who remain skeptical of the new model.

“You’ve got to get back to life eventually somehow,” said one customer. “Might as well start now.”

“I worry about it, but I don’t let it take too much control of my mindset,” said a second customer.

A spokesperson from Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s office provided the following statement regarding the latest PolicyLab model.

“Every decision Governor Abbott has made has been unanimously supported by our medical team and he will continue to base his decisions on data and the advice of doctors,” said John Wittman from Governor Abbott’s office.

So far more than 10,500 people have tested positive for COVID-19 within Harris County including roughly 215 deaths and 4,200 recoveries.

“I’d hunker down even a little bit more these next couple of weeks,” said Dr. Rubin. “I’d like to see those cases get down, and certainly get past this potential storm whether it lands or not.”