UT Austin releases study on impact of social distancing

As more cases of COVID-19 are reported, The University of Texas at Austin has released a study on the impact of social distancing and if or when local hospitals could be overrun.

The study says if people don’t practice social distancing, hospitals in the Austin-Round Rock area could be overrun by the summer.

“We actually can have an impact if we if we as hear just do our part and try to avoid contact when not needed then we can address this crisis as a city,” said Lauren Myers, a professor at the university who analyzes pandemics like the flu. Myers put together this study for city leaders in an effort to show the importance of social distancing.

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“What we can see is that if we really are able to be successful in breaking those contacts and removing and reducing our interactions with each other we may not see a peak this summer,” said Myers.

According to Myers’ data, if the Austin area were to go back to the way things were right now, hospitals could be overrun by mid to late spring. “The impacts of social distancing are immediate so as soon as we stop coming in contact with each other we are preventing infected people from coming in contact with people who could be infected,” said Myers.

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Myers put together this information on the number of hospital beds with data from dell medical school. The study shows 1 in 20 people infected with the virus need to be hospitalized.

Dell Medical School says hospitals have already begun efforts to make beds available. “Already the hospitals have done quite a bit to reduce the number of hospitalized people today in preparation for this not having elective surgery is an example of that,” said Dr. Clay Johnston, the dean of the Dell Medical School.

If the area can not flatten the curve and hospitals do get overrun, they are looking into possibly using the Frank Erwin Center or other event centers to house patients.

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“We had discussions today on those possibilities we were preparing for the worst and hoping that’s unnecessary but it all depends on behavior today from the public,” said Johnston.

Anyone who does need to go outside during this stay at home order is asked to remember to stay about six feet away from others.


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