A nationwide study updated May 20 from the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia used cellphone data, case count data, average daily temperatures and other demographic information to make the prediction and singled out other early-to-open areas of the U.S., including Texas and Florida.
“Unfortunately, we are already seeing some areas move too quickly and without enough vigilance,” said Dr. Gregory Tasian, a faculty member at the PolicyLab, in a news release accompanying the report.
Cellphone movement data put Harris County and its surrounding counties among the lowest end of the spectrum for social distancing compliance in the country with travel to nonessential businesses reducing by 25%-50% compared to prepandemic times.
Since phased reopenings began in late April, Harris County’s case count has grown by between about 150 and 250 new cases per day without significant spikes despite a growing number of testing sites opened across the city.
A Harris County-specific model from the report estimates the county could see as many as 2,247 new cases in one day as soon as June 7.
Dr. David Persse, the city of Houston's director of emergency medicine, said most changes in public health policy, such as enacting or easing social distancing measures, take time to have a noticeable effect on case counts.
While the report noted the virus’s spread can slow while businesses reopen with strict hygiene measures and mask usage, varying levels of compliance will threaten early gains in suppressing it.
“The risk for seeing increasing case counts rests solely on how cautiously [areas] reopen communities and manage crowding,” said Dr. Jing Huang, faculty member at PolicyLab at CHOP.
View the full report here.