REPORT: Stay-at-home order has saved an estimated 4,500 lives in Harris County so far

The "Stay Home-Work Safe" order in Harris County also prohibits residents from playing on public playgrounds and using public basketball courts. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
The "Stay Home-Work Safe" order in Harris County also prohibits residents from playing on public playgrounds and using public basketball courts. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

The "Stay Home-Work Safe" order in Harris County also prohibits residents from playing on public playgrounds and using public basketball courts. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

This story was updated April 7 with additional details on how researchers arrived at the figures for lives saved and hospitalizations prevented.

Roughly two weeks after Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued a "Stay Home-Work Safe" order requiring all county residents to avoid nonessential travel, a new study suggests the measures have saved over 4,500 lives.

The study, which was conducted by the Rice University Kinder Institute of Urban Research, also found that 48,812 people have not been hospitalized who otherwise would have been were it not for the stay-at-home order.

If the stay-at-home order is in place and adhered to by residents through April 22, 13,220 lives will be saved, and 125,733 hospitalizations will be prevented, according to the study. If the order is in place through May 7, 19,452 lives will be saved, and 179,381 hospitalizations will be prevented.

In an article published along with the study, researchers Mingming Zhang, Katie Wang and Jie Wu said the model is not meant to provide exact numbers but instead to show a general pattern.

"We hope this information will help Houstonians better understand the impact of our collective effort and how important it is to have the stay-at-home order in place," the researchers wrote. "However, ... we recognize that staying home isn’t a panacea for this crisis. It is critical to take immediate steps to increase the capacity to test people for COVID-19 and quarantine those who are infected."

The modeling used in the study was developed by The New York Times with a team of epidemiologists and then adapted to Harris County by the Kinder Institute. It takes several factors into account, such as the aggressiveness of the stay-at-home order, the rate of infection, the death rate and the percentage of those infected who require hospitalization.

In an email, Jie Wu said the team used an infection rate of 2.5 people and a death rate of roughly 1% when calculating the data for Harris County. He said details on the percentage of people who get the virus who require hospitalization is not fully clear but is assumed to be around 10%. The number for lives saved and hospitalizations prevented is based on a "moderate" level of intervention, he said.

The order in Harris County is currently set to expire April 30, though it could still be extended. As of April 6, Harris County has reported a total of 1,809 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, including 22 deaths and 239 recoveries.

In an April 6 press conference, Hidalgo said hospitals in the Greater Houston area are operating at 70% capacity. The county has also begun work to convert NRG Center as a "last resort" option to provide ancillary medical services to coronavirus patients, she said.
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


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